Mannitol challenge for assessment of airway responsiveness, airway inflammation and inflammatory phenotype in asthma

Clin Exp Allergy. 2010 Feb;40(2):232-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2222.2009.03371.x. Epub 2009 Oct 30.


Background: Assessment of airway inflammation in asthma is becoming increasingly important, as the inflammatory phenotype underpins the treatment response.

Objective: This study aimed to evaluate mannitol as a tool for assessing airway responsiveness and airway inflammation in asthma, compared with hypertonic saline.

Methods: Fifty-five subjects with stable asthma completed a hypertonic (4.5%) saline challenge and a mannitol challenge at two separate visits, performed 48-72 h apart, in random order.

Results: Induced sputum was obtained from 49 (89%) subjects during the saline challenge and 42 (76%) subjects during the mannitol challenge (P>0.05). There was a significant correlation between the greatest percentage fall in forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV(1)) (r=0.6, P<0.0001), the dose-response slope (r=0.73), cumulative dose (r=0.55) and PD15 (r=0.46) for mannitol and hypertonic saline. The greatest percentage fall in FEV(1) to mannitol was less in non-eosinophilic asthma. There was a lower total cell count in mannitol vs. hypertonic-saline-induced sputum. However, sputum eosinophils and neutrophils were not significantly different. Using mannitol, a higher proportion of subjects were classified as having eosinophilic asthma. There were no differences in IL-8, neutrophil elastase or matrix-metalloproteinase 9 concentrations in sputum samples induced with mannitol or hypertonic saline.

Conclusion: We conclude that mannitol can be used to induce good-quality sputum, useful for analysis of inflammatory mediators and for predicting the inflammatory phenotype in asthma.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / diagnosis*
  • Asthma / genetics
  • Asthma / immunology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / diagnosis*
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Male
  • Mannitol* / administration & dosage
  • Middle Aged
  • Phenotype
  • Pulmonary Eosinophilia / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Eosinophilia / genetics
  • Pulmonary Eosinophilia / immunology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sputum / immunology
  • Sputum / metabolism


  • Mannitol