Get access

Eosinophil activation and cysteinyl leukotriene production in infants with respiratory syncytial virus bronchiolitis


P. J. Helms, Department of Child Health, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK. E-mail:


Background It has been suggested that acute infantile bronchiolitis associated with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) may share some pathogenic features with atopic asthma in that virus-specific IgE is produced and cysteinyl leukotrienes (cLTs) and eosinophil cationic protein (ECP) have been detected in airway secretions. ECP is a specific marker of eosinophil activation although leukotrienes can be released from a variety of cells including mast cells, eosinophils and monocytes.

Objective To test the association between eosinophil activation and cysteinyl leukotriene production in the upper airway secretions of infants with RSV positive (RSV+ve) bronchiolitis.

Methods Nasal lavage samples were performed in 78 infants (0.0–11.5 months) admitted to hospital with RSV+ve bronchiolitis soon after admission (0–48 h). Leukotriene C4 (LTC4) was assayed by enzyme immunoassay (EIA) and eosinophil cationic protein (ECP) by fluoroimmunoassay (FIA).

Results LTC4 was detectable in 51 and ECP in 57 of 78 samples with a significant positive relationship between LTC4 and ECP (r=0.557, P<0.001).

Conclusion In the majority of our subjects with RSV+ve bronchiolitis ECP and LTC4 were detectable in upper airway secretions and were significantly associated with each other. In this clinical setting much of the detected LTC4 within upper airway secretions is likely to originate from the eosinophil, an observation that may have implications for clinical management and for delineation of the underlying mechanisms associated with this illness.