Characterization of increased cough sensitivity after antigen challenge in guinea pigs


Masaki Fujimura, The Third Department of Internal Medicine, Kanazawa University, School of Medicine, 13–1 Takara-machi, Kanazawa 920–8641, Japan. E-mail:


Increased sensitivity of cough reflex is a fundamental feature of bronchodilator resistant non-productive cough associated with eosinophilic tracheobronchitis. Our hypothesis is that cough sensitivity is increased by airway allergic reaction characterized by airway eosinophilic inflammation. The aim of this study was to elucidate the hypothesis and clarify the characteristics of the increased cough sensitivity.

Number of coughs elicited by inhalation of increasing concentrations of capsaicin (10−8, 10−6 and 10−4 m) was counted 24 h after an aerosolized antigen or saline in actively sensitized or non-sensitized (naive) conscious guinea pigs and then bronchoalveolar lavage was performed. The cough response was also measured 1 day before and 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 days after an aerosolized antigen challenge in sensitized or naive animals. In addition, effect of procaterol (0.1 mg/kg), atropine (1 or 10 mg/kg), phosphoramidon (2.5 mg/kg) given intraperitoneally 30 min before the capsaicin challenge or capsaicin desensitization on the cough response was examined. Furthermore, the thromboxane A2 (TXA2) receptor antagonist S-1452 in a dose of 0.01 or 0.1 mg/kg or vehicle (saline) was given intraperitoneally at 24 and 1 h before the measurement of cough response.

Number of coughs caused by capsaicin was extremely increased 24 h after an antigen challenge in sensitized guinea pigs compared with a saline or an antigen challenge in naive animals or a saline challenge in sensitized animals. The increased cough response disappeared at 3–7 days after the antigen challenge. Eosinophils in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid obtained after the measurement of capsaicin-induced coughs, which was performed 24 h after the antigen challenge, were significantly increased in sensitized guinea pigs. The eosinophil count was significantly correlated to the number of capsaicin-induced coughs. Procaterol or atropine did not alter the antigen-induced increase of cough sensitivity, whereas atropine did reduce the cough response in naive animals. Phosphoramidon increased the number of capsaicin-induced coughs in naive guinea pigs but not in sensitized and antigen-challenged animals. Capsaicin desensitization decreased the cough response in both antigen-challenged sensitized guinea pigs and naive animals. S-1452 reduced the antigen-induced increase of cough response in sensitized guinea pigs, but not in naive animals.

Airway allergy accompanied with airway eosinophilia induces transient increase in cough sensitivity, which is not mediated by bronchoconstriction. The increased cough sensitivity may result in part from inactivation of neutral endopeptidase and TXA2, one of the inflammatory mediators.