Airway response to carbachol in normal and asthmatic subjects: distinction between bronchial sensitivity and reactivity

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1977 Jun;115(6):937-43. doi: 10.1164/arrd.1977.115.6.937.


By constructing cumulative dose-response curves to inhaled carbachol in 12 normal and 17 asthmatic subjects with comparable baseline specific airway conductance, we have shown that there were wide variations among subjects in the dose of carbachol needed to cause a 25 per cent decrease in specific airway conductance (bronchial sensitivity) and in the slopes of the curves (bronchial reactivity). Furthermore, there was no significant correlation between these 2 characteristics of the bronchial response to carbachol. The mean dose-response curves of the asthmatic and the normal subjects were widely divergent, indicating that the asthmatic subjects differed from normal subjects more in terms of bronchial reactivity than in bronchial sensitivity. This suggests that different mechanisms determine the sensitivity and reactivity of the bronchial tree, and that hyper-reactivity is the main feature of the asthmatic response. Both should be assessed when the bronchial response to bronchoconstrictor agents is measured.

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Bronchi / drug effects*
  • Bronchi / physiopathology
  • Bronchial Provocation Tests
  • Carbachol / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male


  • Carbachol