Paucigranulocytic asthma: Do sputum macrophages matter?

Allergy Asthma Proc. 2021 Nov 1;42(6):530-536. doi: 10.2500/aap.2021.42.210060.


Background: Although paucigranulocytic asthma (PGA) is the most common phenotype of stable asthma, its features have not been adequately studied. In this study, we aimed to display the characteristics of PGA. Method: A total of 116 non-smoking adult patients with asthma (80% women; mean ± standard deviation age, 39 ± 12.9 years) admitted to three tertiary centers were included. Their demographic and clinical features, allergy status, biochemical results, scores of Asthma Control Test (ACT), spirometry, and exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) measurements were obtained. Induced sputum cytometry was performed. Results: Four phenotypes, according to induced sputum cell counts, were detected: eosinophilic asthma (EA) (22.4%), mixed granulocytic asthma (MGA) (6.9%), neutrophilic (NA) (7.8%), and PGA (62.9%). In the sputum, macrophages were higher in the PGA group compared with the other groups (PGA versus NA and PGA versus MGA, p < 0.001; and PGA versus EA, p =0 .030). The atopy rate between phenotypes was the same. Although the forced expiratory volume in the first second of expiration (FEV1) was similar in four groups, the ratio of FEV1 to the forced vital capacity ratio was higher (p = 0.013) and FEV1 reversibility was lower in the patients with PGA than the corresponding values in other phenotypes (p = 0.015). Low reversibility was comparable both in patients with PGA who were inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) naive and in patients on ICS treatment. Although insignificant, the FeNO values and blood eosinophil counts were higher in the MGA and EA groups, whereas these were the lowest in the PGA group. The uncontrolled asthma ratio was low in PGA (16%), whereas it was 11% for NA, 25% for MG, and 23% in EA. Conclusion: Macrophages are predominant in sputum of patients with PGA. Besides a lower uncontrolled asthma ratio, lower FEV1 reversibility is a prominent characteristic of this phenotype.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Asthma* / diagnosis
  • Asthma* / drug therapy
  • Eosinophils
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Macrophages
  • Male
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Pulmonary Eosinophilia* / drug therapy
  • Sputum


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Nitric Oxide