Challenge tests in nose and bronchi: pharmacological modulation of rhinitis and asthma


Dr N. Mygind, Teglværksvej 55, DK-3460, Birkerød. Denmark.


In order to study the pathophysiology of allergic airway disease and its response to pharmacotherapy, allergic and non-allergic provocation challenge techniques can be employed. Lower airway challenge has been used widely, but the use of nasal challenge is becoming more widespread as its advantages are realized. New measurement techniques are also being used (e.g. acoustic rhinometry), along with more classical methods such as spirometry, peak airflow rate and symptom scores, to determine the response to challenge. In the lungs, allergen challenge produces a biphasic response, which is less clearly defined in the nose. Topical histamine challenge closely resembles the effects of an allergic reaction and acts by stimulating sensory nerve endings. Methacholine is also often used for nasal challenge (often in addition to histamine), due to its effects on glandular sensitivity. Exercise induces bronchoconstriction in asthmatics and can be imitated by inhalation of cold, dry air. Cold air induces glandular hypersecretion and nasal discharge in normal subjects, which is increased in severity in rhinitic patients. Drug effect investigations using antihistamines have shown that histamine is important in producing the symptom of sneezing, whereas nasal blockage is due to vasodilatation rather than plasma exudation and oedema. β2-agonists reduce allergen-induced symptoms by stabilizing mast cells, whereas cholinoceptor antagonists reduce watery nasal secretion. Increased responsiveness of sensory nerves and nasal glands is a characteristic clinical feature of asthma and rhinitis, which is responsible for the symptomatology. These effects can be reduced by topical corticosteroids.