Use of exhaled breath condensate in the study of airway inflammation after hypertonic saline solution challenge

Chest. 2005 Nov;128(5):3159-66. doi: 10.1378/chest.128.5.3159.


Study objectives: Hypertonic saline solution inhalation is suspected to produce airway inflammation.

Design: The aim of this study was to verify this hypothesis by measuring inflammatory markers in exhaled breath condensate (EBC) collected before and after sputum induction with hypertonic and isotonic saline solution.

Patients and methods: We enrolled 10 patients with asthma, 10 patients with COPD, and 7 healthy subjects with no history of lung disease. Levels of interleukin (IL)-6 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha were measured in EBC by a specific enzyme immunoassay kit. Exhaled pH was measured after deaeration/decarbonation by bubbling with argon (350 mL/min) for 10 min by means of a pH meter.

Measurements and results: Exhaled IL-6 and TNF-alpha concentrations were greater and pH was decreased compared to baseline after hypertonic saline solution inhalation in each group of subjects studied. No changes were observed following isotonic saline solution inhalation. Concentrations of IL-6, TNF-alpha, and pH in EBC correlated.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that hypertonic saline solution inhalation could cause a low-grade inflammation in airways, and levels of inflammatory markers such as IL-6, TNF-alpha, and pH in EBC may be a useful noninvasive way to assess and monitor airway inflammation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Asthma / diagnosis*
  • Breath Tests*
  • Cell Count
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Inflammation Mediators / analysis*
  • Interleukin-6 / analysis*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnosis*
  • Saline Solution, Hypertonic
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / analysis


  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Interleukin-6
  • Saline Solution, Hypertonic
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha