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The association between childhood asthma and adult chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  1. Andrew Tai1,
  2. Haily Tran2,
  3. Mary Roberts3,
  4. Nadeene Clarke2,
  5. John Wilson4,
  6. Colin F Robertson2,5
  1. 1Department of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, Women's and Children's Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  2. 2Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  4. 4Department of Allergy, Immunology and Respiratory Medicine, The Alfred Hospital, Prahran, Victoria, Australia
  5. 5Respiratory Medicine, Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Andrew Tai, Dept of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, Women's and Children's Hospital, 72 King William Road, North Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia 5006, Australia; andrew.tai{at}


Introduction There is epidemiological evidence to suggest that events in childhood influence lung growth and constitute a significant risk for adult COPD. The aim of the study is to evaluate for an association between childhood asthma and adult COPD.

Methods This longitudinal, prospective study of 6–7-year-old children with asthma has been regularly reviewed every 7 years to the current analysis at 50 years of age. Participants completed respiratory questionnaires and lung function spirometry with postbronchodilator response. At the age of 50, subjects were classified to the following subgroups: non-asthmatics, asthma remission, current asthma and COPD which was defined by FEV1 to FVC ratio postbronchodilator of less than 0.7.

Results Of the remaining survivors, 346 participated in the current study (participation rate of 76%) of whom 197 completed both questionnaire and lung function testing. As compared with children without symptoms of wheeze to the age of 7, (non-asthmatics) children with severe asthma had an adjusted 32 times higher risk for developing COPD (95% CI 3.4 to 269). In this cohort, 43% of the COPD group had never smoked. There was no evidence of a difference in the rate of decline in FEV1 (mL/year, 95th CI) between the COPD group (17, 10 to 23) and the other groups: non-asthmatics (16, 12 to 21), asthma remission (20, 16 to 24) and current asthma (19, 13 to 25).

Conclusions Children with severe asthma are at increased risk of developing COPD.

  • asthma
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

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