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Increases in CD4+ T lymphocytes, macrophages, neutrophils and interleukin 8 positive cells in the airways of patients with bronchiectasis
  1. M Gagaa,
  2. A M Bentleyb,
  3. M Humberta,
  4. J Barkansa,
  5. F O’Briena,
  6. C G Wathenc,
  7. A B Kaya,
  8. S R Durhama
  1. aNational Heart and Lung Institute, London, UK, bOsler Chest Unit, Churchill Hospital, Oxford, UK, cChest Department, Wycombe, General Hospital, High Wycombe, UK
  1. Dr S R Durham, Respiratory Medicine, Imperial College School of Medicine at National Heart and Lung Institute, Dovehouse Street, London SW3 6LY, UK.


BACKGROUND Bronchiectasis is a chronic suppurative lung disease characterised by irreversible dilation of the bronchi and persistent purulent sputum. The immunopathology of the disease was studied using a quantitative immunostaining technique with particular reference to T lymphocytes, macrophages, and granulocytes.

METHODS Bronchial mucosal biopsy specimens were obtained by fibreoptic bronchoscopy from 12 patients with bronchiectasis (six receiving inhaled steroids) and 11 normal healthy controls. Immunostaining (APAAP method) was performed on frozen cryostat sections with a panel of monoclonal antibodies to total leucocytes (CD45), T lymphocyte phenotypic markers (CD3, CD4, CD8), macrophages (CD68), eosinophils (EG2), and neutrophils (elastase).

RESULTS There was a mononuclear cell infiltrate in both patients with bronchiectasis and normal controls, but an overall increase in total leucocyte cell numbers (CD45+ cells) was identified in those with bronchiectasis (median values 422 cells/mm2 versus 113 cells/mm2 in control tissue, p<0.001). Intense infiltration of CD3+ T lymphocytes was observed compared with healthy controls (292 cells/mm2 and 40 cells/mm2, respectively, p<0.001). This comprised predominantly CD4+ T cells (118 cells/mm2) rather than CD8+ T cells (47 cells/mm2). CD3+ cell counts were reduced in those subjects on inhaled steroids compared with those not receiving inhaled steroids (197 cells/mm2 versus 369 cells/mm2, p<0.05), as were CD4+ cell counts (82 cells/mm2 versus 190 cells/mm2, p<0.05). Neutrophil and macrophage cell numbers were also increased in patients with bronchiectasis (114 cells/mm2 and 213 cells/mm2, respectively) compared with controls (41 neutrophils/mm2 and 40 macrophages/mm2). EG2+ (activated) eosinophil numbers were much lower than T cells, macrophages, and neutrophils in patients with bronchiectasis but were increased compared with controls (36 cells/mm2 versus 0 cells/mm2, p<0.001). In view of the markedly increased neutrophil counts in patients with bronchiectasis, biopsy specimens were immunostained for interleukin 8 (IL-8) which was highly significantly increased compared with controls (47 cells/mm2 versus 15 cells/mm2, p<0.01). IL-8+ cells were less prominent in steroid treated patients than in patients not receiving treatment (30 cells/mm2 versus 60 cells/mm2, p<0.05). A further characteristic of bronchiectasis was mucous gland hypertrophy. Gland area comprised up to 40% of the tissue in some bronchiectasis sections while no hypertrophy was noted in control biopsy specimens (p<0.05).

CONCLUSION Airway inflammation in bronchiectasis is characterised by tissue neutrophilia, a mononuclear cell infiltrate composed mainly of CD4+ T cells and CD68+ macrophages, and increased IL-8 expression. Inhaled corticosteroid treatment in patients with bronchiectasis is associated with a less marked infiltration by T cells and IL-8+ cells within the bronchial mucosa, although this finding requires confirmation in a prospective placebo controlled trial.

  • bronchiectasis
  • CD3+ cells
  • IL-8
  • cellular infiltration

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