• dendritic cell;
  • asthma;
  • respiratory syncytial virus

Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDC) play a crucial role in antiviral immunity and promoting Th1 polarization, possibly protecting against development of allergic disease. Examination of the relationship between peripheral blood plasmacytoid DC levels and manifestations of asthma and atopy early in life. We have isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from 73 children (mean age ± SD: 6.6 ± 0.5 yr old) participating in the RSV Bronchiolitis in Early Life (RBEL) study. Flow cytometry was performed on PBMC detecting DC surface-markers: Blood Dendritic Cell Antigens (BDCA) 1, 3, and 2 which identify myeloid type 1, type 2, and plasmacytoid cells, respectively. Total serum IgE, peripheral eosinophil count, and allergy skin tests were documented. About 45% (n = 33) of study participants had physician-diagnosed asthma by 6 yr of age. These children had significantly lower quantities (mean ± SD) of plasmacytoid DC than their non-asthmatic counterparts (1020 ± 921 vs. 1952 ± 1170 cells per 106 PBMC, p = 0.003). We found significantly lower numbers of myeloid dendritic cells in children with asthma (3836 ± 2472 cells per 106 PBMC) compared with those without asthma (4768 ± 2224 cells per 106 PBMC, p = 0.02); however, this divergence was not significant after adjusting for covariates of age, gender, race, skin test reactivity, smoke exposure, and daycare attendance. We did not identify any direct association between DC levels and markers of atopy: skin test reactivity, peripheral eosinophilia, and IgE level. Children who are diagnosed with asthma after severe RSV bronchiolitis appear to have a relative deficiency of plasmacytoid DC in peripheral blood.