Although asthma usually begins in childhood, limited information is available as to the inflammatory reaction of asthmatic children compared to adults and the influence of age. We investigated the cytology of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) in 39 newly diagnosed wheezy children (minimum of 3 wheezing episodes during last 6 months): 21 allergic and 18 nonallergic subjects. None had received antiinflammatory treatment. Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) was performed, instilling 0.5 ml.kg(-1) body weight of warmed saline in 4 successive fractions. The first 2 aliquots (BALF 1) were pooled for microbiology and cytology, and the last 2 (BALF 2) for cytology only. Recovery correlated inversely with age, the most significant being for BALF 2 (r = -0.52, P = 0.001). Children under 2 years of age had larger amounts of ciliated columnar and goblet cells (P = 0.0074). Other cell types did not show age dependency. Differential cytology was characterized by a high number of creola bodies, bronchial epithelial cells (M = 68 x 10(3).ml(-1), R = 5-349), and neutrophils (M = 92 x 10(3).ml(-1), R = 0-1,257). Eosinophils were the only cells distinguishing allergic from nonallergic subjects (P = 0.003). The 16 children with positive microbiology had more neutrophils than the noninfected (P = 0.008), the latter still having more neutrophils than found in adults. These data suggest a limited age dependency in BALF cytology. Differential cytology in BALF might be helpful in differentiating asthma in children. Neutrophil inflammation might be more important than in adults.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.