Background: Smoking cessation is the best possible way to prevent the progression of smoking related airway diseases. However, the effect and time scale of smoking cessation on airway inflammation/remodelling are largely unknown. This prospective study evaluated the effects of smoking cessation on induced sputum (IS) neutrophils, matrix metalloproteinases (MMP-7, -8, -9) and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 (TIMP-1).
Methods: A total of 61 subjects participated in the study; 17 stopped smoking for 3 months and 9 for 6 months. The proportion of IS neutrophils and the levels of MMPs and TIMP-1 by ELISA were determined at baseline and at 3 and 6 months after cessation.
Results: In the smokers, baseline IS neutrophils, MMPs and TIMP-1 were significantly higher compared to non-smokers. Levels of MMP-7, -8 and TIMP-1 decreased nearly to those of non-smokers but the levels of MMP-9 increased significantly from the baseline of the same subjects at 3 months after cessation (p = 0.009) with no significant decline at 6 months after cessation.
Conclusions: Sputum MMP-9 remained elevated after 6 months of smoking cessation, which may contribute to ongoing lung damage typical of COPD.