Cell distribution and cytokine levels in induced sputum from healthy subjects and patients with asthma after using different nebulizer techniques

Research article, Open Access, Open Peer Review
Sinem Koc-GünelRalf SchubertStefan Zielen and Martin Rosewich

Abstract

Background

Sputum induction is an important noninvasive method for analyzing bronchial inflammation in patients with asthma and other respiratory diseases. Most frequently, ultrasonic nebulizers are used for sputum induction, but breath-controlled nebulizers may target the small airways more efficiently. This treatment may produce a cell distribution similar to bronchoalveolar lavage (less neutrophils and more macrophages) and provide deeper insights into the underlying lung pathology. The goal of the study was to compare both types of nebulizer devices and their efficacy in inducing sputum to measure bronchial inflammation, i.e., cell composition and cytokines, in patients with mild allergic asthma and healthy controls.

Methods

The population of this study consisted of 20 healthy control subjects with a median age of 17 years, range: 8–25 years, and 20 patients with a median age of 12 years, range: 8–24 years, presenting with mild, controlled allergic asthma who were not administered an inhaled steroid treatment. We induced sputum in every individual using both devices on two separate days. The sputum weight, the cell composition and cytokine levels were analyzed using a cytometric bead assay (CBA) and by real-time quantitative PCR (qRT-PCR).

Results

We did not observe significant differences in the weight, cell distribution or cytokine levels in the sputum samples induced by both devices. In addition, the Bland-Altman correlation revealed good concordance of the cell distribution. As expected, eosinophils and IL-5 levels were significantly elevated in patients with asthma.

Conclusions

The hypothesis that sputum induction with a breath-controlled “smart” nebulizer is more efficient and different from an ultrasonic nebulizer was not confirmed. The Bland-Altman correlations showed good concordance when comparing the two devices.

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