Can asthma increase risk of non-respiratory infections such as shingles?

Published Online: December 28, 2015

Previous studies have shown that asthma is associated with increased risks of serious (eg, pneumococcal diseases and pertussis) and common (eg, S. pyogenes infection, ‘strep throat’) respiratory infections.  Little is known about the relationship between asthma and non-respiratory infections such as herpes zoster (shingles) in adults, which affects up to 30% of all adults by age 80 with nearly 1 million cases a year in the United States.

In an original research paper by Kwon et al. published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) investigated whether asthma increases the risk of shingles.  Conducting a population-based case-control study of Olmsted County, MN adults aged 50 years and older, they compared the frequency of asthma between zoster (shingles) cases and birthday- and gender-matched controls (1:2 matching) without a history of zoster (shingles). Asthma status was ascertained by predetermined criteria for asthma.

The authors found that adults with asthma were at a significantly increased risk, about 70% higher odds, of developing zoster (shingles), compared to those without asthma. The study findings suggest asthma is an unrecognized risk factor for zoster in adults and is a chronic disease with systemic effect going beyond airways.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is the official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.

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