Lower serum IgA is associated with COPD exacerbation risk in SPIROMICS

Background

Decreased but measurable serum IgA levels (≤70 mg/dL) have been associated with risk for infections in some populations, but are unstudied in COPD. This study tested the hypothesis that subnormal serum IgA levels would be associated with exacerbation risk in COPD.

Methods

Data were analyzed from 1,049 COPD participants from the observational cohort study SPIROMICS (535 (51%) women; mean age 66.1 (SD 7.8), 338 (32%) current smokers) who had baseline serum IgA measured using the Myriad RBM biomarker discovery platform. Exacerbation data was collected prospectively (mean 944.3 (SD 281.3) days), and adjusted linear, logistic and zero-inflated negative binomial regressions were performed.

Results

Mean IgA was 269.1 mg/dL (SD 150.9). One individual had deficient levels of serum IgA (<7 mg/dL) and 25 (2.4%) had IgA level ≤70 mg/dL. Participants with IgA ≤70 mg/dL were younger (62 vs. 66 years, p = 0.01) but otherwise similar to those with higher IgA. In adjusted models, IgA ≤70 mg/dL was associated with higher exacerbation incidence rates (IRR 1.71, 95% CI 1.01–2.87, p = 0.044) and greater risk for any severe exacerbation (OR 2.99, 95% CI 1.30–6.94, p = 0.010). In adjusted models among those in the lowest decile (<120 mg/dL), each 10 mg/dL decrement in IgA (analyzed continuously) was associated with more exacerbations during follow-up (β 0.24, 95% CI 0.017–0.46, p = 0.035).

Conclusions

Subnormal serum IgA levels were associated with increased risk for acute exacerbations, supporting mildly impaired IgA levels as a contributing factor in COPD morbidity. Additionally, a dose-response relationship between lower serum IgA and number of exacerbations was found among individuals with serum IgA in the lowest decile, further supporting the link between serum IgA and exacerbation risk. Future COPD studies should more comprehensively characterize immune status to define the clinical relevance of these findings and their potential for therapeutic correction.