Hemosiderin in sputum macrophages may predict infective exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a retrospective observational study
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BACKGROUND: Infective exacerbations of COPD are common and are accompanied by neutrophilic bronchitis in sputum. Increased respiratory iron content has been associated with respiratory tract infection, though it is unclear if this represents a predisposing factor for infection or the sequelae of inflammation. Iron overload, as assessed in the airways, may be an important biomarker for recurrent infective exacerbations of COPD. The purpose of our study was to determine if hemosiderin in sputum macrophages is related to infective exacerbations of COPD. METHODS: We undertook a retrospective observational study of 54 consecutive patients who presented with an exacerbation of COPD and had sputum examined including assessment for hemosiderin in alveolar macrophages. The relation between infective exacerbations in the previous two years and the percent of hemosiderin-positive macrophages was analyzed with linear regression. To account for the non-parametric distribution of infective exacerbations, negative binomial regression modelling was used to account for other covariates. RESULTS: The percent of hemosiderin positive alveolar macrophages (hemosiderin index), analyzed parametrically and non-parametrically, demonstrated a significant correlation with increasing numbers of infective exacerbations in the previous two years. In a multivariate regression analysis, hemosiderin index was an independent predictor of infective exacerbations. COPD patients with raised hemosiderin index (≥20%) had higher levels of sputum IL-6 compared to patients with lower levels (<20%). CONCLUSIONS: High hemosiderin index in sputum alveolar macrophages measured at the time of AECOPD may be related to the frequency of infective exacerbations of COPD.
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