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Hypercapnia and its relationship with respiratory infections.

INTRODUCTION: Hypercapnia is developed in patients with acute and/or chronic respiratory conditions. Clinical data concerning hypercapnia and respiratory infections interaction is limited.

AREAS COVERED: Currently, the relationship between hypercapnia and respiratory infections remains unclear. In this review, we summarize studies on the effects of hypercapnia on models of pulmonary infections to clarify the role of elevated CO2 in these pulmonary pathologies. Hypercapnia affects different cell types in the alveoli, leading to changes in the immune response. In vitro studies show that hypercapnia downregulates the NF-κβ pathway, reduces inflammation and impairs epithelial wound healing. While in vivo models show a dual role between short- and long-term effects of hypercapnia on lung infection. However, it is still controversial whether the effects observed under hypercapnia are pH dependent or not.

EXPERT OPINION: The role of hypercapnia is still a controversial debate. Hypercapnia could play a beneficial role in mechanically ventilated models, by lowering the inflammation produced by the stretch condition. But it could be detrimental in infectious scenarios, causing phagocyte dysfunction and lack of infection control. Further data concerning hypercapnia on respiratory infections is needed to elucidate this interaction.

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