Objective: To compare cellular inflammation in the airways between acute bronchiolitis and asthma.
Study design: Using a bronchoalveolar lavage with flexible bronchoscopy procedure, we investigated the cellular constituents of BAL fluid in children with acute exacerbation of asthma (n = 18) and infants with acute bronchiolitis caused by respiratory syncytial virus (n = 20). These results were compared with those of healthy control subjects (n = 14).
Results: Total lavage fluid recovered was similar in all groups. The total cell numbers were highest in the bronchiolitis group. The BAL cellular profile in the asthma group was characterized by a higher median (interquartile range) ratio of eosinophils (2.4% [1.6%-9.5%]; P <.01) than in the bronchiolitis group (0% [0%-0%]) or the control group (0% [0%-0%]). Neutrophil ratio was higher in the bronchiolitis group (40.0% [26.5%-50.0%]; P <.01), with no difference found between the asthma group (3.3% [2.0%-7.9%]) and the control group (2.0% [0.8%-5.5%]).
Conclusions: Asthma and acute bronchiolitis are characterized by an elevated cellular percentage of eosinophils and neutrophils, respectively, in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid.