BACKGROUND: Antibodies against chromosomal beta-lactamase of Pseudomonas aeruginosa (a beta ab) are markers of the development of resistance of P aeruginosa to beta-lactam antibiotics in patients with cystic fibrosis and chronic lung infection. The role of these antibodies in patients with chronic lung infection with P aeruginosa was further investigated by correlating the a beta ab IgG subclasses with pulmonary function in patients with cystic fibrosis. METHODS: Immunoglobulin G (IgG) and IgG subclass a beta ab were investigated by western blotting and quantified by laser scanning densitometry. A longitudinal study on 43 consecutive patients with cystic fibrosis who developed chronic lung infection with P aeruginosa was performed. RESULTS: IgG subclass a beta ab appeared in all patients with chronic infection with P aeruginosa. Eleven years after the onset of infection all the patients had IgG1, 79% had IgG4, 56% IgG2, and only 16% of the patients had IgG3 a beta ab. The IgG1 and IgG4 a beta ab appeared first, and more than 50% of the patients were IgG1 and IgG4 a beta ab positive within 2-3 years of the onset of infection, but IgG2 positivity only appeared after seven years and IgG3 remained absent from most of the patients. The median a beta ab levels increased during chronic infection: 100-fold for IgG1, 22-fold for IgG2, and 45-fold for IgG4. A 16-fold increase in the IgG3 a beta ab levels was detected in the six patients who developed IgG3 a beta ab. In the first four years of the chronic infection the a beta ab titres were higher in patients with good lung function than in those with poor lung function. CONCLUSIONS: The association of a weak IgG3 and a strong IgG4 a beta ab response suggests that the contribution of a beta ab antibodies to lung diseases mediated by immune complexes might be less important than other antipseudomonal antibodies. A beneficial neutralising effect of the a beta ab antibodies on the antibiotic destroying enzymes may be an additional factor.
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