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Eur Respir J. 1999 Mar;13(3):489-95.

Sputum eosinophils and exhaled nitric oxide during late asthmatic reaction in patients with western red cedar asthma.

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  • 1Dept of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


Examination of sputum for eosinophils and measurement of exhaled nitric oxide have been proposed as noninvasive methods of assessing airway inflammation in asthma. The use of these tests in the evaluation of patients with occupational asthma has not been reported. This study investigated the changes in sputum eosinophils and exhaled NO before and at intervals after inhalation challenge with plicatic acid in patients with suspected western red cedar asthma. Of 17 subjects who underwent challenge, nine had a positive bronchoconstrictor reaction (responders) and eight had a negative reaction (nonresponders). At 6 and 24 h after plicatic acid challenge, there was a significant increase in sputum eosinophils among responders, which was inversely related to the fall in forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) at 6 h. An increase in sputum eosinophils was also found in three nonresponders. Levels of exhaled NO increased at 24 h after challenge with plicatic acid in both responders and nonresponders, being significant only in nonresponders. No correlation was found between the increase in nitric oxide and the magnitude of the functional changes in the airways. There were significant correlations between the degree of sputum eosinophilia and the level of exhaled NO before and after methacholine and plicatic acid challenge. In conclusion, the late asthmatic reaction induced by plicatic acid in patients with western red cedar asthma is associated with an increase in sputum eosinophils. The usefulness of measuring sputum eosinophils and exhaled nitric oxide in the clinical evaluation of patients with suspected occupational asthma caused by low molecular weight compounds has yet to be determined.

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