American Journal of Respiratory Medicine

, Volume 2, Issue 6, pp 459–468

Pseudomonal Infections in Patients with COPD

Epidemiology and Management
Therapy In Practice

DOI: 10.1007/BF03256673

Cite this article as:
Lieberman, D. & Lieberman, D. Treat Respir Med (2003) 2: 459. doi:10.1007/BF03256673


COPD is a common disease with increasing prevalence. The chronic course of the disease is characterized by acute exacerbations that cause significant worsening of symptoms. Bacterial infections play a dominant role in approximately half of the episodes of acute exacerbations of COPD. The importance of pseudomonal infection in patients with acute exacerbations of COPD stems from its relatively high prevalence in specific subgroups of these patients, and particularly its unique therapeutic ramifications. The colonization rate of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in patients with COPD in a stable condition is low.

A review of a large number of clinical series of unselected outpatients with acute exacerbations of COPD revealed that P. aeruginosa was isolated from the patients’ sputum at an average rate of 4%. This rate increased significantly in COPD patients with advanced airflow obstruction, in whom the rate of sputum isolates of P. aeruginosa reached 8–13% of all episodes of acute exacerbations of COPD. However, the great majority of bacteria isolated in these patients were not P. aeruginosa, but the three classic bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, Hemophilus influenzae, and Moraxella catarrhalis. The subgroup of patients, with acute exacerbations of COPD, with the highest rate of P. aeruginosa infection, which approaches 18% of the episodes, is mechanically ventilated patients. However, even in this subgroup the great majority of bacteria isolated are the above-mentioned three classic pathogens.

In light of these epidemiologic data and other important considerations, and in order to achieve optimal antibacterial coverage for the common infectious etiologies, empiric antibacterial therapy should be instituted as follows. Patients with acute exacerbations of COPD with advanced airflow obstruction (FEV1 <50% of predicted under stable conditions) should receive once daily oral therapy with one of the newer fluoroquinolones, i.e. levofloxacin, moxifloxacin, gatifloxacin, or gemifloxacin for 5–10 days. Patients with severe acute exacerbations of COPD who are receiving mechanical ventilation should receive amikacin in addition to one of the intravenous preparations of the newer fluoroquinolones or monotherapy with cefepime, a carbapenem or piperacillin/tazobactam. In both subgroups it is recommended that sputum cultures be performed before initiation of therapy so that the results can guide further therapy.

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© Adis Data Information BV 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pulmonary UnitSoroka University Medical CenterBeer-ShevaIsrael
  2. 2.Division of Internal MedicineThe Soroka University Medical CenterBeer-ShevaIsrael
  3. 3.Faculty of Health SciencesBen-Gurion University of the NegevBeer-ShevaIsrael