Changes in levels of nerve growth factor in nasal secretions after capsaicin inhalation in patients with airway symptoms from scents and chemicals

Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Jul;113(7):849-52. doi: 10.1289/ehp.7657.


Patients complaining of upper and lower airway symptoms caused by scents and chemicals have previously been shown to have increased cough sensitivity to inhaled capsaicin, but the precise mechanisms behind this reaction are unknown. Hypothesizing that a neurochemical alteration related to sensory hyperreactivity (SHR) of the airway mucosa occurs, we measured levels of nerve growth factor (NGF) in nasal lavage fluid (NAL) before and after capsaicin inhalation provocations and related the capsaicin cough sensitivity to the NGF levels. Thirteen patients with SHR and 14 control subjects were provoked with capsaicin inhalation at three different doses. We measured NGF in NAL before and after provocation and recorded cough and capsaicin-induced symptoms. All subjects demonstrated a dose-dependent cough response to capsaicin inhalation, with a more pronounced effect in patients than in controls. Basal levels of NGF were significantly lower in the patient group than in the control subjects (p < 0.01). After capsaicin provocation, the patients showed a significant increase in NGF (p < 0.01), which was related to capsaicin cough sensitivity. The findings demonstrate that, in patients with airway symptoms induced by scents and chemicals, SHR is real and measurable, demonstrating a pathophysiology in the airways of these patients compared to healthy subjects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bronchial Hyperreactivity / physiopathology*
  • Capsaicin / administration & dosage
  • Capsaicin / toxicity*
  • Cough / chemically induced
  • Dyspnea / chemically induced
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity / physiopathology*
  • Nasal Lavage Fluid / chemistry*
  • Nerve Growth Factors / analysis*
  • Odorants
  • Perfume
  • Respiratory System


  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Perfume
  • Capsaicin