Rhinovirus-16 colds in healthy and in asthmatic subjects: similar changes in upper and lower airways

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1999 Jul;160(1):100-8. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.160.1.9808074.


Rhinovirus (RV) infections appear to precipitate most asthma exacerbations. To investigate whether RV-16 induces different inflammatory changes in upper and lower airways of asthmatic and healthy subjects, we inoculated 10 nonatopic healthy and 11 atopic asthmatic adults with 2,000 TCID50 RV-16. Subjects recorded symptoms and peak flow daily; and they underwent spirometry, methacholine challenge (PC20), nasal lavage, and sputum induction at baseline and on Days 2, 4, 15, and 29 d after inoculation. One asthmatic subject developed an exacerbation requiring prednisone treatment 5 d after inoculation. The cold symptom severity (Jackson score) did not differ between groups. During the cold, asthma symptoms increased slightly from baseline in the asthmatic group; and PC20 decreased in the healthy group. However, peak flow, bronchodilator use, and spirometry did not change in either group. At baseline, asthmatics had higher neutrophils, eosinophils, and interleukin (IL)-6 in nasal lavage. After inoculation, both groups developed significant increases in nasal neutrophils, IL-6 and IL-8, and modest increases in sputum neutrophils and IL-6, but not IL-8. However, these changes did not differ between groups. IL-5, interferon-gamma, and RANTES were detected only in nasal lavages from two asthmatic subjects, who had the most severe colds. IL-11 was not detected in any sample. We conclude that inflammatory responses of upper and lower airways during RV-16 colds are similar in asthmatic and healthy subjects, and that RV-16 infection is not by itself sufficient to provoke clinical worsening of asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Viral / metabolism
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Asthma / virology*
  • Common Cold / immunology
  • Common Cold / virology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interleukins / metabolism
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Lung Volume Measurements
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiratory System / immunology
  • Respiratory System / virology
  • Rhinovirus / pathogenicity*
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / immunology
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / virology*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Interleukins