Nebulized heparin in Burkholderia cepacia colonized adult cystic fibrosis patients

Eur Respir J. 2001 Jan;17(1):36-8. doi: 10.1183/09031936.01.17100360.


Viscous negatively charged cystic fibrosis (CF) sputum allows colonization by pathogens, inducing a chronic inflammatory response. Heparin thins sputum by decreasing the mucin molecule amino group negative charge, altering its intermolecular hydrogen bonding, and ionically shielding its polyionic moieties. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect within the lung. It may, therefore, be useful in the treatment of CF patients. In order to test this, six fully informed Burkholderia cepacia colonized stable adult CF patients, received 25,000 IU nebulized heparin sulphate daily for 7 days. Subjective sputum parameters, spirometry, platelets, coagulation parameters, and serum and sputum interleukin (IL)-6 and -8 were measured before and after treatment. All patients tolerated the heparin with no evidence of bleeding, thrombocytopenia or change in coagulation parameters. There was no change in spirometry, but a reduction in interleukins (sputum IL-6, p=0.01; sputum IL-8, p=0.002; serum IL-6, p=0.02; serum IL-8, p=0.02). Sputum was easier to expectorate (p < 0.04), with a trend towards thinner sputum (p=0.07) but no change in sputum volume. Heparin therapy was well tolerated and had an anti-inflammatory effect, with subjective sputum mucolysis. Further studies are necessary to define the role of heparin in the treatment of cystic fibrosis patients.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aerosols
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Blood Coagulation
  • Burkholderia cepacia / isolation & purification*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / blood
  • Cystic Fibrosis / drug therapy*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / metabolism
  • Cystic Fibrosis / microbiology*
  • Expectorants / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Heparin / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / analysis
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Interleukin-8 / analysis
  • Interleukin-8 / blood
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Sputum / chemistry
  • Sputum / drug effects
  • Viscosity


  • Aerosols
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Expectorants
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interleukin-8
  • Heparin