Indexed on: 07 May '02Published on: 07 May '02Published in: American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine
Exhaled breath condensate analysis for noninvasive quantification of airway inflammation in asthma is a potentially useful research tool in children. There is an imbalance between T-helper (Th)-2 cells, which secrete interleukin (IL)-4, and Th1 cells, which secrete interferon (IFN)-gamma, in asthma. We measured concentrations of IL-4 and IFN-gamma in breath condensates of 37 children (11 normal, 12 steroid-naive, and 14 steroid-treated children with asthma). Exhaled IFN-gamma was significantly lower in steroid-naive and steroid-treated children with asthma compared with normal control subjects (3.7 +/- 0.2 versus 5.1 +/- 0.4 pg/ml, p < 0.01 and 4.1 versus 5.1 pg/ml, p < 0.05). By contrast, mean exhaled IL-4 was elevated in asthma (53.7 +/- 4.2 pg/ml) compared with normal children (35.7 +/- 6.2 pg/ml, p < 0.05) and concentrations were lower with steroid treatment (37.5 +/- 5.6 pg/ml, p < 0.05). Exhaled IL-4 was significantly lower in children with asthma on more than 600 microg inhaled steroid/day. The IL-4/IFN-gamma ratio was significantly greater in children with asthma compared with control children and the children with asthma on inhaled steroid therapy. We have shown for the first time that IFN-gamma and IL-4 can be assayed in exhaled breath condensate and shows an increased ratio of IL-4/IFN-gamma, consistent with predominance of Th2 cells in airways of children with asthma. Exhaled breath condensate analysis may have a useful role in studying allergic inflammation in childhood asthma.