Background: Neutrophils are a key part of the innate immune defence against microbes, using the respiratory burst (RB) to optimise killing and digestion. Previous studies of the neutrophil RB in Crohn's disease (CD) have yielded conflicting results.
Methods: Superoxide production in response to phorbol-myristyl acetate (PMA) was measured in neutrophils from 100 patients with CD compared to 50 healthy controls (HCs) and 50 patients with ulcerative colitis (UC). A further 22 CD and 10 HCs were studied using f-Met-Leu-Phe (fMLP), and digestion of E. coli by neutrophils was also evaluated.
Results: The mean ± SEM PMA-stimulated RB (nmol O(2)/10(6) cells/min) was 10.86 ± 0.26 in HCs, 9.76 ± 0.23 in CD (P=0.02) and 10.04 ± 0.28 in UC (P=0.09 vs HC and 0.47 vs CD). No significant effect of age, gender or medication was observed. The RB in three patients with presumed CD was found to be in the range expected in patients with inherited neutrophil disorders. Stimulation with fMLP was calcium dependent and attenuated in patients on 5-ASA. Digestion of E. coli by neutrophils was not different in HC vs CD (21.6 vs 20.53%, P=0.60).
Conclusion: The significant reduction in neutrophil RB in CD does not appear to result in defective bacterial digestion and is therefore unlikely play a major role in pathogenesis. Three patients in this cohort of patients with presumed idiopathic CD were found to have a profound defect of the neutrophil RB. A high index of suspicion for such patients is prudent, as their prognosis can be improved by altering or augmenting the conventional treatment regimens employed for CD.