Systemic inflammation is a well-established feature of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, COPD, but less is known about inflammation in the upper airways in the disease. In the current study, we investigated the inflammatory profile in the upper airway and in serum in a cohort of patients with COPD. Patients were examined with inflammatory profiles measured on material from the upper airway and in serum using a 14-plex Bioplex multiplex immunoassay containing the following cytokines: IL-1-beta, IL-3, IL-4, IL-5, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-13, IL-17, IL-18, Interferon-gamma, Tumour Necrosis Factor-alpha, Tumour Necrosis Factor beta, and GM-CSF. We evaluated COPD disease burden using the CAT questionnaire and symptoms from the upper airways with the nasal domain of the 22 items Sino Nasal Outcome Test (SNOT22nasal). We included 180 patients (female 55%, age 67 (±8) years, FEV1% 52.4 (±16.6). Using a SNOT22nasal threshold of ≥6, we divided patients into high upper airways symptoms (high UAS), n = 74 (41%) and low upper airway symptoms (low UAS), n = 106 (59%). High UAS was significantly associated with higher levels of IL-1 beta and IL-3 in nasal samples (p = 0.016 and 0.02, respectively) and higher serum levels of IL-1 beta (p = 0.003). Upper airway scores correlated positively with nasal levels of IL-3 (rho = 0.195, p = 0.01) and serum levels of IL-1 beta (rho = 0.226, p = 0.005). Patients with COPD and high upper airway symptoms displayed signs of eosinophilic and neutrophilic inflammation with elevated levels of IL-1 beta and IL-3 in the nose and elevated IL-1 beta in serum.
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