Comparison of bacterial adherence to ciliated and squamous epithelial cells obtained from the human respiratory tract

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1983 Jan;127(1):85-90. doi: 10.1164/arrd.1983.127.1.85.


Previous in vitro studies have suggested that bacterial adherence to buccal squamous epithelial cells may be a mechanism involved in postoperative colonization of the oropharynx. However, the relationship between bacterial binding to oral epithelial and ciliated respiratory cells is unknown. To investigate bacterial binding to other cells in the human respiratory tract, we measured adherence of Pseudomonas seruginosa to ciliated cells (from nose and trachea) and compared this to squamous cells (from buccal mucosa), Cell samples were collected from 16 noncolonized individuals undergoing either elective surgery or volunteer bronchoscopy. Adherence (mean +/- SEM) to tracheal cells (4.6 +/- 0.8 bacteria per cell) and to nasal cells (4.7 +/- 0.6 bacteria per cell) was similar. These values significantly (p less than 0.001) exceeded buccal cell adherence (0.9 +/- 0.2 bacteria per cell). Because cells from ciliated surfaces bind more bacteria than cells from squamous surfaces, bacterial adherence at these respiratory sites may involve different mechanisms. The enhanced bacterial attachment to ciliated cells may assume pathogenic importance when mucociliary function is impaired.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / pharmacology
  • Adhesiveness
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cilia / microbiology
  • Epithelium / microbiology
  • Epithelium / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Mucosa / microbiology
  • Nasal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / pathogenicity*
  • Respiratory System / microbiology*
  • Respiratory System / ultrastructure
  • Smoking
  • Trachea / microbiology


  • Acetylcysteine