Airway inflammation and dysbiosis in antibody deficiency despite the presence of IgG

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2021 Dec 27;S0091-6749(21)02736-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2021.12.778. Online ahead of print.


Background: Patients with antibody deficiency suffer chronic respiratory symptoms, recurrent exacerbations and progressive airways disease despite systemic replacement of Immunoglobulin G. Little is known about the respiratory tract biology of these patients.

Objective: To measure immunoglobulin levels, inflammatory cytokines and mediators of tissue damage in serum and sputum from patients with antibody deficiency and healthy controls; to analyse the respiratory microbiome in the same cohorts.

Methods: We obtained paired sputum and serum samples from 31 immunocompetent subjects and 67 antibody deficient patients, the latter divided on computed tomography scan appearance into 'abnormal airways' (bronchiectasis or airway thickening) or 'normal airways'. We measured inflammatory cytokines, immunoglobulin levels, neutrophil elastase, matrix-metalloproteinase-9, urea, albumin and total protein levels using standard assays. We employed V3-V4 region 16S sequencing for microbiome analysis.

Results: Immunodeficient patients had markedly reduced Immunoglobulin A in sputum but higher concentrations of Immunoglobulin G compared to healthy controls. Inflammatory cytokines and tissue damage markers were higher in immunodeficient patients, who also exhibited dysbiosis with over-representation of pathogenic taxa and significantly reduced alpha diversity compared to immunocompetent individuals. These differences were seen regardless of airway morphology. Sputum matrix metalloproteinase-9 and elastase correlated inversely with alpha diversity in the antibody deficient group, as did sputum Immunoglobulin G, which correlated positively with several inflammatory markers, even after correction for albumin levels.

Conclusion: Patients with antibody deficiency, even with normal lung imaging, exhibit inflammation and dysbiosis in their airways despite higher levels of Immunoglobulin G compared to healthy controls.

Keywords: Immunodeficiency; immunoglobulin; inflammation; microbiome; respiratory tract; sputum.