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Infect Immun. Oct 1994; 62(10): 4145–4152.
PMCID: PMC303089

Role of interleukin-8 (IL-8) and an inhibitory effect of erythromycin on IL-8 release in the airways of patients with chronic airway diseases.


To evaluate of the role of interleukin-8 (IL-8), a chemotactic cytokine, in the continuous neutrophil accumulation in the airways of patients with chronic airway disease (CAD) and persistent Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection, we investigated the cell population, IL-8 levels, IL-1 beta levels, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) activities, and neutrophil elastase (NE) activities of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluids in 17 CAD patients (with P. aeruginosa infections [CAD+PA], n = 9; without any bacterial infections [CAD-PA], n = 8) and 8 normal volunteers. We found significant elevations of neutrophil numbers, IL-8/albumin ratios, and NE/albumin ratios in BAL fluids from CAD patients, in the following rank order: CAD+PA > CAD-PA > normal volunteers. IL-1 beta/albumin ratios were elevated only in CAD+PA, while no TNF bioactivity was detected in BAL fluids. The neutrophil numbers correlated significantly with the IL-8/albumin ratios and NE/albumin ratios in the BAL fluids of CAD patients. When anti-human IL-8 immunoglobulin G was used for neutralizing neutrophil chemotactic factor (NCF) activities in BAL fluids, the mean reduction rate of NCF activities in CAD+PA patients was significantly higher than that in CAD-PA patients. We also evaluated the effects of low-dose, long-term erythromycin therapy in BAL fluids from three CAD+PA and two CAD-PA patients. Treatment with erythromycin caused significant reductions of neutrophil numbers, IL-8/albumin ratios, and NE/albumin ratios in BAL fluids from these patients. To elucidate the mechanism of erythromycin therapy, we also examined whether erythromycin suppressed IL-8 production by human alveolar macrophages and neutrophils in vitro. We demonstrated a moderate inhibitory effect of erythromycin on IL-8 production in Pseudomonas-stimulated neutrophils but not in alveolar macrophages. Our data support the view that persistent P. aeruginosa infection enhances IL-8 production and IL-8-derived NCF activity, causing neutrophil accumulation in the airways and the progressive lung injuries observed in patients with CAD. The clinical efficacy of erythromycin therapy for CAD patients might be partly mediated through a reduced IL-8 production, diminishing neutrophil accumulation and NE release in the airways.

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