Background: We have shown that some patients presenting with chronic bronchodilator-resistant non-productive cough have global atopic tendency and airway cough hypersensitivity without non-specific bronchial hyperresponsiveness, abbreviated as atopic cough. The cough is successfully treated with histamine H1-antagonists and/or glucocorticoids.
Objective: This prospective study was conducted to elucidate the histological feature of atopic cough.
Methods: Tracheal and bronchial mucosa obtained by transbronchoscopic biopsy and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cell component were studied with special emphasis on eosinophils in eight non-smokers diagnosed with atopic cough, all of whom had increased sensitivity of cough response to inhaled capsaicin, normal lung function and bronchial responsiveness to methacholine and normal chest roentgenogram. Their cough completely resolved on histamine H1-antagonists and/or glucocorticoids. Transbronchoscopic tracheal and bronchial biopsy and BAL were also performed in healthy non-smokers as a control.
Results: A small number of eosinophils was detected in subepithelium of trachea in six of seven patients and in subepithelium of bronchi in seven of eight cough patients. The numbers of eosinophils in subepithelium of trachea and bronchi were significantly increased in the patients compared with control subjects. There was no BAL eosinophilia in any patients.
Conclusion: It is concluded that eosinophilic tracheobronchitis and cough hypersensitivity are pathological and physiological characteristics of atopic cough.