Does the asthma-chronic obstructive pulmonary disease overlap syndrome (ACOS) exist? A narrative review from epidemiology and practice

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David L. Hahn


Asthma, Asthma-COPD overlap syndrome (ACOS), Chlamydia pneumoniae, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)


Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have traditionally been approached as separate entities that must be researched and treated separately. There is growing recognition, however, that a substantial proportion of patients with obstructive lung disease have characteristics of both asthma and COPD (termed the asthma–COPD overlap syndrome (ACOS)). Lung disease experts have difficulty defining ACOS, and many still resist accepting the possibility that asthma and COPD may be linked. It is likely that practicing clinicians may be equally confused about how to identify and treat ACOS. This narrative review aims to clarify concepts of ACOS definition, argues that the best way to understand ACOS is to view the chronic lung disease process longitudinally rather than cross-sectionally, and presents evidence that ACOS can be the end result of the natural history of severe asthma. The review also points out the serious gaps in knowledge regarding therapy for ACOS and presents emerging data supporting the intracellular respiratory pathogen Chlamydia pneumoniae as a possible common etiologic agent in severe asthma and ACOS.

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