Study objectives: Asthma and gastro-oesophageal reflux (GER) are both characterized by airway inflammation.
Design: The purposes of this work were (i) to study airway inflammation in patients troubled by gastro-oesophageal reflux (GER) and GER associated with asthma, (ii) to ascertain whether GER can aggravate asthma by exacerbating the pre-existing airway inflammation and oxidative stress and (iii) to establish the validity of analysing breath condensate and induced sputum when studying the airways of subjects affected by GER. PATIENT S AND METHODS: We enrolled 14 patients affected by mild asthma associated with GER (40 +/-12 years), nine with mild but persistent asthma (39 +/- 13 years), eight with GER (35 +/- 11 years) and 17 healthy subjects (37 +/- 9 years). Sputum cell counts and concentrations of interleukin-4 (IL-4), IL-6 and 8-isoprostane were measured in breath condensate and supernatant.
Measurements and results: GER-related asthma is characterized by an eosinophilic inflammation, as determined by elevated concentrations of IL-4 in breath condensate and sputum supernatant, and by sputum cell analysis. GER alone presents a neutrophilic pattern of inflammation when determined by elevated concentrations of IL-6 in sputum cell analysis. A concomitant increase has been found in 8-isoprostane in GER associated (or not associated) with asthma.
Conclusions: We conclude that GER is characterized by a neutrophilic airway inflammation and by increased oxidative stress. GER does not however aggravate pre-existing airway inflammation in asthma patients. Determinations of inflammatory and oxidant markers in the breath condensate of subjects with GER reflect these measured in the induced sputum.