Airway inflammation in childhood asthma

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2003 Oct 1;168(7):798-803. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200305-650OC. Epub 2003 Jul 31.


Airway pathology has been extensively investigated in adulthood asthma, whereas only few studies examined bronchial biopsies in childhood asthma. To evaluate the airway pathology in children with asthma, we analyzed bronchial biopsies obtained from 23 children undergoing bronchoscopy for clinical indications other than asthma. Nine had mild/moderate asthma. Six had atopy without asthma, and eight had no atopy or asthma. We measured basement membrane thickness and quantified the number of eosinophils, mast cells, neutrophils, macrophages, T lymphocytes, and positive cells for transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1) and its receptors I and II (TGFbeta-RI and TGFbeta-RII) in subepithelium. Children with asthma had an increase in basement membrane thickness and in the number of eosinophils compared with control subjects, but not compared with children with atopy. They also had a decreased expression of TGFbeta-RII compared with both those with atopy and control subjects. In children with asthma, the number of eosinophils correlated negatively with TGFbeta-RII and positively with symptom duration. In conclusion, airway eosinophilia and basement membrane thickening, which are the pathologic features that are characteristic of adulthood asthma, are already present in children with mild asthma, and even in children with atopy without asthma. Moreover, in children with asthma but not in children with atopy without asthma, there is a downregulation of TGFbeta-RII.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Asthma / metabolism
  • Asthma / pathology*
  • Basement Membrane / pathology
  • Bronchi / metabolism
  • Bronchi / pathology*
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Eosinophils
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Male
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1 / metabolism


  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1