Monitoring sputum eosinophils in mucosal inflammation and remodelling: a pilot study
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Normalisation of eosinophil counts in sputum of asthmatic patients reduces eosinophilic exacerbations. However, the effect of this strategy on airway remodelling remains to be determined. We compared bronchial inflammation and collagen deposition after 2 yrs of treatment guided by either sputum eosinophils (sputum strategy, SS) or by clinical criteria (clinical strategy, CS). As a pilot study, 20 mild asthmatic patients were randomly assigned to CS or SS strategies. Bronchial biopsies were obtained when minimum treatment needed to maintain control was identified and this was continued for 2 yrs. Biopsies were immunostained for inflammatory cells, mucin 5A (MUC5A) and collagen. The mean dose of inhaled corticosteroids at the start and end of the study was similar in both SS and CS groups. Forced expiratory volume in 1 s increased in both groups at the study end. In SS, mucosal lymphocyte and eosinophil counts, but not neutrophils, were reduced at the end of the study. In CS, only activated eosinophil and neutrophil counts decreased. MUC5A staining decreased in SS but not CS. No change in collagen deposition underneath the basement membrane was observed in either strategy. Treatment strategies that normalise sputum eosinophils also reduce mucosal inflammatory cells and MUC5A expression, but do not change subepithelial collagen deposition in mild to moderate asthma.