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Chronic pulmonary diseases are a major cause of morbidity and mortality and their impact is expected to increase in the future. Respiratory viruses are the most common cause of acute respiratory infections and it is increasingly recognized that respiratory viruses are a major cause of acute exacerbations of chronic pulmonary diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis. There is now increasing evidence that the host response to virus infection is dysregulated in these diseases and a better understanding of the mechanisms of abnormal immune responses has the potential to lead to the development of new therapies for virus-induced exacerbations. The aim of this article is to review the current knowledge regarding the role of viruses and immune modulation in chronic pulmonary diseases and discuss avenues for future research and therapeutic implications.