In order to investigate the effect of pH on bronchial responsiveness to inhaled histamine, 15 subjects with non-specific bronchial hyperreactivity performed two histamine inhalation tests, one with unbuffered, and the other with buffered histamine acid phosphate solutions. The unbuffered histamine solutions were prepared with 0.9% sterile saline and had a pH range from 4.3 to 7.3, while the buffered histamine solutions were prepared with a phosphate buffer and had a pH range of 6.5 to 7.4. The two histamine inhalation tests were similar in all other regards. The geometric mean histamine provocation concentration required to produce a 20% reduction in FEV1 (PC20) was significantly lower for the unbuffered histamine (1.33 mg/ml) than for the buffered histamine (1.67 mg/ml), p less than 0.05. The two PC20s differed by less than one doubling dilution, the range of reproducibility of the test, in 12 of the 15 subjects. The pH effect was only noted when the pH of the histamine solutions was below five (histamine concentrations from one to eight mg/ml). We conclude that the acid pH of higher concentrations of histamine acid phosphate solutions has a slight but significant enhancing effect on the bronchial responsiveness to inhaled histamine.
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