Inhaled Asthma and COPD Meds Raise Lung Infection Risk

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People who have filled three or more prescriptions for inhaled steroids to treat asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), or another breathing problem are almost three times more likely than those who have never used inhaled steroids to develop nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) lung infections, according to a study published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society. These infections are caused by bacteria found in the environment and don’t spread from person to person, but they’re often difficult to treat and can cause serious complications and death.

Researchers at Stanford University Medical Center in California analyzed medical records of 549 people diagnosed with NTM lung infections over a 10-year period. They found that the risk of developing these lung infections was 2.7 times higher in those who had used an inhaled steroid three or more times. The longer inhaled steroids were used, the greater the risk.

According to the researchers, the number of NTM lung infections has gone up alongside the increased use of inhaled steroids. NTM infection prevalence in the early 1980s is estimated to have been about 1.8 in 100,000. Studies show the prevalence may now be more than 40 cases per 100,000 people in some areas of the United States.

Sourced from: Annals of the American Thoracic Society