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Sputum microbiology predicts health status in COPD

Authors Braeken DCW, Houben-Wilke S, Smid DE, Rohde GGU, Drijkoningen J JC, Wouters EFM, Spruit MA, Franssen FME

Received 12 July 2016

Accepted for publication 3 September 2016

Published 7 November 2016 Volume 2016:11(1) Pages 2741—2748


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Professor Hsiao-Chi Chuang

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Russell

Dionne CW Braeken,1,2 Sarah Houben-Wilke,1 Dionne E Smid,1 Gernot GU Rohde,2 Jesse JC Drijkoningen,2 Emiel FM Wouters,1,2 Martijn A Spruit,1 Frits ME Franssen1,2

1Department of Research and Education, CIRO, Horn, the Netherlands; 2Department of Respiratory Medicine, Maastricht University Medical Centre (MUMC+), Maastricht, the Netherlands

Background: Spontaneous sputum production occurs in a subset of COPD patients; however, its clinical relevance has not been established. Differences in health status and clinical outcomes between patients with and without positive sputum cultures are unknown.
Objective: To compare clinical characteristics and health status of spontaneous sputum producers with a positive culture (SC+) and negative culture (SC-) with nonsputum producers (NP) in a cohort of COPD patients referred for pulmonary rehabilitation.
Methods: In total, 518 clinically stable patients with mild-to-very severe COPD were recruited (mean age: 64.1±9.1 years, 55.6% males, forced expiratory volume in 1 second 48.6%±20.0% predicted). Health status was measured using COPD Assessment Test, St George’s Respiratory Questionnaire, and the Clinical COPD Questionnaire. Symptoms of anxiety and depression were assessed using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Exercise capacity was measured using the 6-minute walking distance. Spontaneously expectorated sputum was cultured for microbiology.
Results: Almost one-third of patients spontaneously produced sputum (n=164, 31.7%). Despite comparable lung function, SC+ reported more frequent exacerbations than NP (≥2 exacerbations <1 year: 43 [81.1%] vs 179 [50.6%], P<0.001). COPD Assessment Test total score and the Clinical COPD Questionnaire total score were significantly worse in SC+ than NP (23.9±6.1 vs 21.1±6.7, P=0.012; 3.1±1.0 vs 2.5±1.0, P=0.002; respectively). Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale-D score was significantly higher in SC+ than NP (8.7±4.1 vs 7.2±4.3, P=0.046).
Conclusion: Spontaneous sputum production is common in COPD. Particularly, patients with positive cultures have worse health status and more symptoms of depression. Impact on disease progression and long-term outcomes remain to be established.
Clinical trial registration: NTR3416, registered at

Keywords: COPD, health status, sputum, microbiology, pulmonary rehabilitation

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