OBJECTIVES: The role of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in the long-term prognosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is unknown. The purpose of this study was to determine whether P. aeruginosa is associated with increased risk of exacerbations or death in patients with COPD.
METHODS: This is a multiregional epidemiological study based on complete data on COPD outpatients between 1 January 2010 and 31 October 2017 and corresponding microbiology and national register data. Time-dependent Cox proportional hazards models and propensity matching was used to estimate hospitalization-demanding exacerbations and death after 2 years, separately and in combination.
RESULTS: A total of 22 053 COPD outpatients were followed for a median of 1082 days (interquartile-range: 427-1862). P. aeruginosa was present in 905 (4.1%) patients. During 730 days of follow-up, P. aeruginosa strongly and independently predicted an increased risk of hospitalization for exacerbation or all-cause death (HR 2.8, 95%CI 2.2-3.6; p <0.0001) and all-cause death (HR 2.7, 95%CI 2.3-3.4; p <0.0001) in analyses adjusted for known and suspected confounders. The signal remained unchanged in unadjusted analyses as well as propensity-matched subgroup analyses. Among patients 'ever colonized' with P. aeruginosa, the incidence of hospital-demanding exacerbations doubled after the time of the first colonization.
CONCLUSIONS: COPD patients in whom P. aeruginosa can be cultured from the airways had a markedly increased risk of exacerbations and death. It is still not clear whether this risk can be reduced by offering patients targeted antipseudomonal antibiotics. A randomized trial is currently recruiting patients to clarify this (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT03262142).