Reduced pH and chloride levels in exhaled breath condensate of patients with chronic cough
- Department of Thoracic Medicine, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College and Royal Brompton Hospital, London, UK
- Correspondence to:
Professor K F Chung
Department of Thoracic Medicine, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College, Dovehouse Street, London SW3 6LY, UK;
- Received 14 July 2003
- Accepted 26 January 2004
Background: Increased hydrogen and reduced chloride ionic environments of the airways are conducive to the stimulation of cough. However, the constituents of the local milieu of the airways of patients with chronic cough are unknown.
Methods: The pH and chloride levels in exhaled breath condensate and capsaicin cough threshold (C5) were measured in 50 patients with chronic cough and in 16 healthy controls. pH and chloride measurements were repeated after capsaicin challenge in those with cough. The cause of cough was asthma (n = 13), postnasal drip/rhinitis (n = 7), gastro-oesophageal reflux (n = 5), bronchiectasis (n = 5), but remained unidentified in 20.
Results: Compared with controls, patients with chronic cough had lower pH (mean 7.9 v 8.3, 95% CI of difference −0.5 to −0.2, p<0.0001), chloride levels (median 4 v 6 mmol/l, 95% CI −3.1 to −0.2, p = 0.007), and C5 (median 3.9 v 125 μM, 95% CI −270.0 to −17.6, p = 0.002). The pH levels were different in the six subgroups including controls, and were reduced in all diagnostic subgroups of patients with cough compared with controls but did not differ between them. Chloride levels were significantly different in the six subgroups but were lower than controls in only the gastro-oesophageal reflux subgroup. There was a weak but significant correlation between chloride levels and C5 when all participants were analysed together, but not between pH and C5 or chloride levels. pH and chloride levels did not change after capsaicin challenge.
Conclusions: The epithelial lining fluid of patients with chronic cough has a reduced pH and reduced chloride levels which could contribute to the enhanced cough reflex.
- C2 and C5, concentration of capsaicin causing ⩾2 or ⩾5 coughs
- EBC, exhaled breath condensate
- GOR, gastro-oesophageal reflux
- PND, postnasal drip
Akio Niimi was supported by a grant from Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan.