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Eur Respir J. 1996 Dec;9(12):2441-7.

Repeatability of cellular and soluble markers of inflammation in induced sputum from patients with asthma.

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  • 1Dept of Pulmonology, Leiden University Hospital, The Netherlands.


Sputum induced by inhalation of nebulized hypertonic saline is increasingly used to monitor airways inflammation in asthma. The aim of this study was to assess the repeatability of measuring cellular and soluble markers of inflammation in whole sputum samples as obtained by sputum induction in patients both with mild and moderate-to-severe asthma. Twelve patients with mild, atopic asthma without inhaled steroid treatment and nine patients with moderate-to-severe, atopic asthma treated with inhaled steroids were studied on two separate days at least 2 days apart. Whole sputum samples, induced by inhalation of hypertonic (4.5%) saline, were homogenized, and analysed for differential cell counts and for concentrations of albumin, fibrinogen, interleukin-8 (IL-8), and eosinophil cationic protein (ECP). Repeatability was expressed as intraclass correlation coefficient (Ri), and as coefficient of repeatability (CR) in percentage cells or in doubling concentration. Samples from two patients with mild asthma contained more than 80% squamous cells and were excluded from analysis. The repeatability for cell differential counts in both groups combined was: for neutrophils, Ri = 0.57 and CR = 31.0; for eosinophils, Ri = 0.85 and CR = 12.4; and for lymphocytes, Ri = 0.76 and CR = 6.9. The repeatability of the fluid phase measurements was: for albumin, Ri = 0.71 and CR = 3.2; for fibrinogen, Ri = 0.88 and CR = 2.8; for IL-8, Ri = 0.66 and CR = 2.2; and for ECP, Ri = 0.82 and CR = 1.1. We conclude that the repeatability of cellular and soluble markers of inflammation in induced sputum from patients with mild and moderate-to-severe asthma is satisfactory. Hence, induced sputum, processed by using the whole expectorated sample, seems to be a valuable method to monitor airway inflammation in asthma.

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