Background: Viral respiratory tract infections are the most frequent cause of asthma exacerbations. Of the respiratory viruses associated with these exacerbations, rhinovirus (RV) is the most common. It is proposed that these RV infections may enhance airway inflammation and thus provoke asthma.
Objective: It is our hypothesis that RV infections generate nasal proinflammatory mediators that are associated with an initial increase in circulating leukocytes and may contribute to later development of neutrophilic airway inflammation.
Methods: To evaluate this hypothesis, subjects with a history of allergic asthma were experimentally inoculated with strain 16 RV (RV16). The effect of this experimental infection was evaluated on circulating leukocytes, nasal-derived mediators, and markers of bronchial inflammation that were obtained by bronchoscopy and lavage.
Results: RV16 inoculation was associated with an initial increase in circulating neutrophils. Paralleling these acute changes in circulating neutrophils was an increase in nasal concentrations of IL-8 and granulocyte-colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF). The RV16-associated changes in circulating and nasal G-CSF correlated with increases in peripheral blood neutrophils (r(s) = 0.874, P <. 001 and r(s) = 0.898, P <.001, respectively). Bronchial lavage samples showed no increase in neutrophils 48 hours after RV16 inoculation; however, 96 hours after RV inoculation there was a significant increase in bronchial neutrophils compared with preinoculation values.
Conclusions: These results suggest that the production of nasal mediators associated with the RV infection, particularly G-CSF, may be important to the eventual development of neutrophilic bronchial inflammation and thus contribute to asthma exacerbations.