Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways characterized by variable airflow limitation and airway hyperresponsiveness. The type of inflammatory response in asthma is compatible with a major contribution of professional antigen-presenting cells. The airways in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are also markedly inflamed; however, the predominant types of inflammatory cells and the main anatomical site of the lesion appear to differ from those in asthma. COPD is characterized by reduced maximum expiratory flow and slow forced emptying of the lungs. Steroids are the most prominent medication used in the treatment of asthma and COPD; however, the beneficial effect of steroid treatment in COPD is subject of debate. We investigated the efficacy of fluticasone propionate (FP) treatment in atopic asthmatics and in COPD patients with bronchial hyperreactivity who smoke. The effect of the treatment on bronchial hyperreactivity and indices of the methacholine dose–response curve were analysed, as well as indices of inflammation of the airway mucosa with special emphasis on the antigen presenting dendritic cell. Treatment of allergic asthmatic patients resulted in improvement of lung function (FEV1), a decrease in bronchial hyperresponsiveness and a decrease of maximal airway narrowing. During the FP-treatment of COPD patients, FEV1 remained stable, while FEV1 deteriorated significantly in the placebo group. Therefore, steroid treatment may have a beneficial effect in COPD patients with bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR). Since immunohistochemical analysis of bronchial biopsy specimens from asthma and COPD patients show disease-specific aspects of inflammation, the anti-inflammatory effect of FP is obtained through modulation of different cell populations in asthma and COPD.
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