Background: Culture-independent methods such as quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) are more sensitive for detecting pathogens than conventional culture. This study aimed to test the clinical potential of a multiple target qPCR array in identifying sputum pathogens, compared to traditional culture. Methods: Forty chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients provided spontaneous sputum and blood samples during an exacerbation event (n=25 patients) and in stable state (n=15 patients). Sputum was processed and analysed by microscopy, culture and sensitivity testing (MCS) to identify living microbial isolates, and multiple target qPCR (44 targets for bacterial and fungal pathogens and antibiotic resistance genes), and 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Results: Six microbial isolates (5 bacterial, 1 fungal) were cultured from 20 exacerbation and 10 stable patient sputum samples. Four of these microbial isolates had their presence in patient sputum confirmed by qPCR. All bacterial targets detected by qPCR were further confirmed by 16S rRNA gene sequencing at a genus level. qPCR identified significantly more bacterial pathogens than culture (P<0.001). The most prevalent bacterial species identified by qPCR were Streptococcus pneumoniae (72% of patients), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (40%), Prevotella oris (32%) and Haemophilus influenzae (17%). Microbial species diversity and richness were not significantly different between samples obtained from exacerbating and clinically stable cases. 16S rRNA gene sequencing identified Pseudomonas 4408227 (P=0.022, FDR =0.043 AUC =0.72) as a significantly different bacterial OTU (operational taxonomic units) in exacerbation sputum samples compared to stable state samples. Conclusions: Multiple target qPCR was more sensitive for detection of sputum pathogens in COPD patients than conventional culture. 16S rRNA gene sequencing confirmed the identity at a genus level of all bacterial targets detected by qPCR, as well as identifying bacterial OTUs that could potentially be used to distinguish between exacerbation and stable COPD disease states. Multiple target qPCR pathogen detection in the sputum of COPD patients warrants further investigation to determine how it may influence COPD clinical management.