Background: Elevated circulating levels of several inflammatory biomarkers have been described in selected patient populations with COPD, although less is known about their population-based distribution. The aims of this study were to compare the levels of several systemic biomarkers between stable COPD patients and healthy subjects from a population-based sample, and to assess their distribution according to clinical variables.
Methods: This is a cross-sectional study design of participants in the EPI-SCAN study (40-80 years of age). Subjects with any other condition associated with an inflammatory process were excluded. COPD was defined as a post-bronchodilator FEV1/FVC < 0.70. The reference group was made of non-COPD subjects without respiratory symptoms, associated diseases or prescription of medication. Subjects were evaluated with quality-of-life questionnaires, spirometry and 6-minute walk tests. Serum C-reactive protein (CRP), tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, interleukins (IL-6 and IL-8), alpha1-antitrypsin, fibrinogen, albumin and nitrites/nitrates (NOx) were measured.
Results: We compared 324 COPD patients and 110 reference subjects. After adjusting for gender, age, BMI and tobacco consumption, COPD patients showed higher levels of CRP (0.477 +/- 0.023 vs. 0.376 +/- 0.041 log mg/L, p = 0.049), TNF-alpha (13.12 +/- 0.59 vs. 10.47 +/- 1.06 pg/mL, p = 0.033), IL-8 (7.56 +/- 0.63 vs. 3.57 +/- 1.13 pg/ml; p = 0.033) and NOx (1.42 +/- 0.01 vs. 1.36 +/- 0.02 log nmol/l; p = 0.048) than controls. In COPD patients, serum concentrations of some biomarkers were related to severity and their exercise tolerance was related to serum concentrations of CRP, IL-6, IL-8, fibrinogen and albumin.
Conclusions: Our results provide population-based evidence that COPD is independently associated with low-grade systemic inflammation, with a different inflammatory pattern than that observed in healthy subjects.