Eight asthmatic patients and two normal subjects performed two identical exercise tests 140 minutes apart (first test preceded by inhalation of saline and the second by terbutaline sulphate). A ninth asthmatic patient exercised twice after placebo 40 minutes apart. Arterial plasma levels of histamine and cyclic AMP, expiratory flow rates and volumes were measured at rest and during and after exercise. After the first test the mean +/- SEM fall in PEFR was 45.2 +/- 2.6%. In five asthmatics there was an increase in plasma histamine (mean +/- SEM 14.8 +/- 3.3 pmol ml-1) coinciding with exercise-induced asthma (EIA). Histamine levels returned to pre-exercise values within 30 minutes. After terbutaline these five patients had histamine levels greater than those observed before, during, or after the first test. This effect may have been the result of changes in pulmonary microcirculation. After the second test the levels decreased indicating no further release of histamine in response to exercise. No EIA occurred in these patients after terbutaline. The other patients and the two normal subjects had little or no change in histamine throughout the study. The one patient in whom exercise was repeated after placebo demonstrated less histamine release and less EIA after the second test.
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