Today is World COPD Day 2020, which provides an ideal opportunity to find out more about some of the key issues facing patients with COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, in the current global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

COPD comprises a group of progressive lung conditions, including emphysema (damage to air sacs) and chronic bronchitis (inflammation of airways), that lead to breathing difficulties.1 A proportion of people infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) – the virus responsible for COVID-19 – develop pneumonia and acute severe respiratory failure, likely due to vascular injury and/or vasoconstriction.2 Research findings suggest that patients with COPD are at increased risk of severe pneumonia and poor outcomes after developing COVID-19.3 Therefore, given the detrimental impact that SARS-CoV-2 can have on the lungs, COVID-19 is obviously a major concern for patients with COPD. Accordingly, patients with COPD have been included in ‘shielding’ strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic, having been identified as one of the high-risk population subgroups who should stay at home and avoid social contact that facilitates transmission of the virus.2

For further information on the topic of COPD and COVID-19, a good starting point is a recent review article by Andrew Higham et al.,  that addresses three fundamental questions.2 Firstly, are there mechanisms causing patients with COPD to have increased susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection? Secondly, do inhaled corticosteroids confer protection against COVID-19? And, thirdly, what data exist regarding clinical outcomes in patients with COPD who develop COVID-19?


  1. National Health Service (NHS). Overview: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Accessed 11 November 2020.
  2. Higham A, Mathioudakis A, Vestbo J, et al. COVID-19 and COPD: a narrative review of the basic science and clinical outcomes. Eur Respir Rev. 2020;29:200199.
  3. Leung JM, Niikura M, Yang CWT, et al. COVID-19 and COPD. Eur Respir J. 2020;56:2002108.