• Viral respiratory tract infection;
  • Bacterial respiratory tract infection;
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease;
  • Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay;
  • Exacerbation;
  • Haemophilus influenzae


Infectious exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have been reported to occur with both viral and bacterial pathogens. In this study, 35 exacerbations associated with the isolation of non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae from sputum were identified as part of a prospective longitudinal study. Samples from these patients were subjected to immunoassays to identify a new immune response to the homologous isolate of non-typeable H. influenzae to more accurately assess a bacterial etiology. These patients also were studied carefully for evidence of viral infection using viral culture, serology and polymerase chain reaction-based assays. Sixteen of 35 exacerbations (45.7%) were associated with evidence of acute viral infection and 11 of the 35 exacerbations (31.4%) were associated with the development of new serum IgG to homologous non-typeable H. influenzae. Overall, evidence of infection with a respiratory virus or non-typeable H. influenzae was seen in 24 of 35 exacerbations (68.6%). No association between viral infection and immune response to non-typeable H. influenzae was observed, although a trend toward an immune response to non-typeable H. influenzae and absence of viral infection was seen. The results show that exacerbations in adults with COPD were associated with infection caused by virus alone, non-typeable H. influenzae alone, or virus and non-typeable H. influenzae simultaneously.