Association between peripheral airway function and neutrophilic inflammation in asthma

Claude S. Farah*, Laurien A. B. Keulers, Kate M. Hardaker, Matthew J. Peters, Norbert Berend, Dirkje S. Postma, Cheryl M. Salome, Gregory G. King

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Background and objectiveSmall airway dysfunction is associated with asthma severity and control, but its association with airway inflammation is unknown. The aim was to determine the association between sputum inflammatory cells and the site of small airway dysfunction, measured by multiple breath nitrogen washout in convection-dependent (Scond) and more peripheral diffusion-dependent (Sacin) airways.

MethodsFifty-three (20-67 years) subjects with asthma on inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) treatment were characterized by spirometry, Scond, Sacin and induced sputum differential counts. %Predicted values for Scond and Sacin were calculated from published reference equations to adjust for the effects of age. Univariate correlations were assessed using the Spearman test. Multivariate linear regressions were performed to account for potential confounders, including age, gender, disease duration, body mass index and ICS dose.

ResultsSacin (%predicted) correlated significantly with neutrophil% (r(s)=0.33, P=0.02), ICS dose (r(s)=-0.28, P=0.04) and age (r(s)=0.27, P=0.05). In multivariate analysis, Sacin related only to neutrophil% (adjusted R-2=0.18, P=0.001). Scond (%predicted) correlated significantly only with eosinophil% (r(s)=0.39, P=0.004). There was a trend for a negative relationship with ICS dose (r(s)=-0.26, P=0.06). In multivariate analysis, Scond related to eosinophil% and ICS dose independently (adjusted R-2=0.12, P=0.02).

ConclusionsAcinar and conductive airway dysfunction is associated with different inflammatory profiles in asthmatic airways, independently of the effects of age and disease duration. The association between acinar airway dysfunction and neutrophilic airway inflammation may have implications for asthma treatment.

The aim of this cross-sectional study was to determine the association between sputum inflammatory cells and small airway dysfunction in asthma. This is the first report of an association between small airway dysfunction and neutrophilic airway inflammation. The results may have implications for asthma treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)975-981
Number of pages7
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Aug-2015


  • asthma
  • multiple breath washout
  • neutrophil
  • small airway
  • ventilation heterogeneity
  • LUNG

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