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Eur Respir J. 1999 Jan;13(1):59-65.

Bronchoalveolar lavage findings in patients with chronic nonproductive cough.

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  • 1Dept of Clinical Biochemistry, The Queen's University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK.


Mast cells and eosinophils may play a role in the pathophysiology of chronic cough in nonasthmatics. It is unknown, however, whether degranulation of these cells occurs in the airways of such patients. Thirty-five nonsmoking patients referred with a chronic nonproductive cough (mean cough duration 76.2 months) were evaluated using a comprehensive diagnostic protocol. Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cell differentials and BAL histamine, tryptase and eosinophilic cationic protein (ECP) concentrations were determined. Ten nonsmoking healthy volunteers served as controls. Diagnostic subgroups were identified: eight postnasal drip syndrome (PNDS), seven cough variant asthma (CVA), seven gastro-esophageal reflux (GOR), seven dual aetiology and six idiopathic. Nonasthmatic coughers (NAC) were characterized as those patients without bronchial hyperresponsiveness on histamine challenge and whose cough had either responded to therapy for PNDS or GOR or failed to improve with antiasthma therapy. There was a significant increase in both eosinophil and mast cell numbers (p<0.05) and in histamine levels (p = 0.027) when NAC patients were compared with controls. Tryptase and ECP levels were elevated in 7 of 23 and 6 of 23 NAC patients, respectively. In conclusion, airway inflammatory cell numbers are not only increased but also activated, suggesting an important role for airways inflammation in the pathophysiology of chronic nonproductive cough.

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