Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) neutrophilia has been repeatedly observed in lung transplant recipients with established bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (BOS). Little is known of the fluctuations in BAL and airway neutrophilic inflammation post-transplant. This prospective longitudinal study aimed to evaluate the dynamic changes of lung allograft neutrophils with time, immunosuppression, infection and BOS. A total of 28, initially healthy, BOS 0, lung transplant recipients underwent 134 bronchoscopic assessments, including BAL and endobronchial biopsies (EBB) (with immunohistochemistry) over 3-year follow up. Subsequently, 21 developed BOS 0p and 16 ultimately BOS. Compared to controls, there was early and persistent BAL neutrophilia (p < 0.05), contrasting with an initially normal EBB that shows a progressive increased airway wall neutrophil infiltrate. BAL neutrophilia (but not airway wall neutrophilia) was most striking when there was concomitant bronchopulmonary infection, particularly in the patients with BOS. Univariate and multivariate analyses suggested that BAL neutrophilia was linked to markers of infection while EBB neutrophilia was linked with coexistent inflammation with macrophages and lymphocytes.
In conclusion: (i) BAL neutrophilia is predominantly associated with infection; (ii) Airway wall neutrophilia (as monitored by EBB) increases with time post-transplant and is not associated with infection; (iii) By itself, BOS is not the major contributor to BAL and EBB neutrophilia.