A collaborative research study between several Australian institutions suggests that cigarette smoking and infection with viruses such as influenza can reduce the effectiveness of symptom-reliever drugs like salbutamol in patients with COPD.

To clarify the mechanism involved in the loss of drug effectiveness, researchers examined sections of lung exposed to cigarette smoke, as well as to influenza A virus. The team discovered that lung tissues exposed to cigarette smoke and viral infection responded less to salbutamol than the unexposed tissues.

“The findings of this study suggest that cigarette smoke and respiratory virus infections may impair the ability of salbutamol to effectively bronchodilate the airways. These findings emphasize yet again that smoking is bad for you, and especially so if you have asthma or COPD,” said professor Sebastian Johnston from Imperial College London in England, one of the authors of the upcoming article. “It would be interesting to determine whether the other commonly used reliever bronchodilator ipratropium bromide, which acts via a different mechanism, is similarly impaired by cigarette smoke and/or viral infection.”