Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Relation between duration of smoking cessation and bronchial inflammation in COPD
  1. T S Lapperre1,
  2. D S Postma4,
  3. M M E Gosman4,
  4. J B Snoeck-Stroband2,
  5. N H T ten Hacken4,
  6. P S Hiemstra1,
  7. W Timens5,
  8. P J Sterk1,
  9. T Mauad1,3,
  10. on behalf of the GLUCOLD Study Group*
  1. 1Department of Pulmonology, Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands
  2. 2Department of General Practice, Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands
  3. 3Department of Pathology, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil
  4. 4Department of Pulmonology, Groningen University Medical Centre, Groningen, The Netherlands
  5. 5Department of Pathology, Groningen University Medical Centre, Groningen, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr T S Lapperre
    Lung Function Laboratory, Department of Pulmonology, Leiden University Medical Centre, P O Box 9600, 2300 RC Leiden, The Netherlands; t.s.lapperre{at}


Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is associated with airway inflammation. Although smoking cessation improves symptoms and the decline in lung function in COPD, it is unknown whether bronchial inflammation in patients with established COPD varies with the duration of smoking cessation.

Methods: 114 patients (99 men) with COPD of mean (SD) age 62 (8) years, a median (IQR) smoking history of 42 (31–55) pack years, no inhaled or oral corticosteroids, all current or ex-smokers (n = 42, quit >1 month, median cessation duration 3.5 years), post-bronchodilator FEV1 63 (9)% predicted, and FEV1/IVC 48 (9)% were studied cross sectionally. The numbers of subepithelial T lymphocytes (CD3, CD4, CD8), neutrophils, macrophages, eosinophils, mast cells, and plasma cells were measured in bronchial biopsy specimens (median (IQR)/0.1 mm2) using fully automated image analysis.

Results: Ex-smokers with COPD had higher CD3+, CD4+, and plasma cell numbers than current smokers with COPD (149 (88–225) v 108 (61–164), p = 0.036; 58 (32–90) v 40 (25–66), p = 0.023; and 9.0 (5.5–20) v 7.5 (3.1–14), p = 0.044, respectively), but no difference in other inflammatory cells. Short term ex-smokers (<3.5 years) had higher CD4+ and CD8+ cell numbers than current smokers (p = 0.017, p = 0.023; respectively). Conversely, long term ex-smokers (quit ⩾3.5 years) had lower CD8+ cell numbers than short term ex-smokers (p = 0.009), lower CD8/CD3 ratios than both current smokers and short-term ex-smokers (p = 0.012, p = 0.003; respectively), and higher plasma cell numbers than current smokers (p = 0.003).

Conclusions: With longer duration of smoking cessation, CD8 cell numbers decrease and plasma cell numbers increase. This indicates that bronchial T lymphocyte and plasma cell counts, but not other inflammatory cells, are related to duration of smoking cessation in patients with COPD.

  • plasma cells
  • T lymphocytes
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • smoking cessation

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • * The GLUCOLD Study Group: Groningen Leiden Universities and Corticosteroids in Obstructive Lung Disease; a full list of members is given in the Appendix to this paper.

  • Published Online First 2 September 2005

  • The study was supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), the Netherlands Asthma Foundation (NAF), GlaxoSmithKline (NL), Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), and Groningen University Medical Center (GUMC).

  • PS and PH have received, as members of the Department of Pulmonology of the Leiden University Medical Centre, a grant from GSK (UK and NL) as part of the sponsorship of this GLUCOLD study. The other authors declare no competing interests.

Linked Articles

  • Airwaves
    Wisia Wedzicha