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Clinical & Experimental Allergy

Airway eosinophilia and expression of interleukin-5 protein in asthma and in exacerbations of chronic bronchitis


Dr M. Saetta, Istituto di Medicina del Lavoro, Università degli Studi di Padova, via Facciolati 71. 35127 Padova, Italy.


Background An increased nutnber of eosinophils in the bronchial mucosa has been demonstrated both in asthma and in exacerbations of chronic bronchitis. Oiyective To investigate whether the airway eosinophilia present in asthma and in chronic bronchitis during exacerbations is associated with interleukin (IL)-5 protein expression in the bronchial mucosa.

Methods We obtained bronchial biopsies in 18 subjects with asthma (four intrinsic, seven extrinsic and seven occupational) and in II subjects with chronic bronchitis examined during an exacerbation. The findings were compared wilh those of bronchial biopsies from 10 subjects with chronic bronchitis examined under baseline conditions and from seven normal subjects, taken as controls. By immunohistochemistry, we assessed the expression of IL-5 protein and the number of eosinophils (EG2), mast cells ftryptase), and T-lymphocytes (CD3) in the submucosa.

Results As compared with controls, the number of eosinophils was increased to a similar degree in both asthma (P < 0.001) and in exacerbations of ehronic bronchitis (P < 0.001). whereas the number of I L-5 immunopositive cells was increased significantly only in asthma (P < 0.01). No diflerences were observed in the number of tnast cells and T-lymphocytes between the four groups of subjects examined. Conciusions This study shows that the degree of airway eosinophilia is similar in asthma and in exacerbations of ehronic bronchitis, but only in asthma is it associated with an increased expression of I L-5 protein in the bronchial tnucosa.

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