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Eur Respir J. 2012 Oct;40(4):1024-32. Epub 2012 Mar 9.

Nitric oxide in primary ciliary dyskinesia.

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  • 1Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia Diagnostic and Research Team (MP 803) NIHR Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit, Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust, Tremona Road, Southampton, SO16 6YD, UK.


Nitric oxide is continually synthesised in the respiratory epithelium and is upregulated in response to infection or inflammation. Primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) is characterised by recurrent sinopulmonary infections due to impaired mucociliary clearance. Despite chronic infections, nasal nitric oxide in such patients is markedly reduced and is used as a screening test for this condition. These low levels were first described >15 yrs ago but the underlying mechanisms have yet to be fully elucidated. We review epithelial nitric oxide synthesis, release and measurement in the upper airways with particular reference to PCD. The key hypotheses that have been proposed to explain the low nitric oxide levels in this condition are explored and the potential benefits of augmenting airway nitric oxide levels are considered. Further work in these patients clarifying both whether the respiratory epithelium is able to biosynthesise normal levels of nitric oxide and the role played by abnormalities in the anatomy of the paranasal sinuses is essential. While nitric oxide augmentation is unlikely to be beneficial in common PCD phenotypes, it has potential in the treatment of secondary dyskinesias and may also improve treatment of bacterial infections, particularly where biofilms are implicated.

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