Erythromycin inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in bronchoalveoli of diffuse panbronchiolitis

Chest. 1994 Oct;106(4):1116-23. doi: 10.1378/chest.106.4.1116.


The efficacy of low dose long-term erythromycin (EM) therapy in the treatment of chronic lower respiratory tract disease, including diffuse panbronchiolitis (DPB), has been reported, but its therapeutic mechanism is still unclear. In 13 patients receiving oral EM therapy the accumulation of neutrophils in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid was significantly reduced (p < 0.05), this reduction corresponds with an improvement in clinical symptoms. We sought to determine whether neutrophil chemotactic activity (NCA) in lavage fluid obtained from these 13 patients with DPB would respond to EM therapy. Pretreatment NCA in all patients was significantly elevated compared with levels in normal healthy nonsmoking volunteers (p < 0.001), and the level was greatly reduced after EM therapy (p < 0.001). In addition, this reduction correlated with increased percentages of neutrophils in the BAL fluid (r = 0.737, p < 0.01). Gel-filtration chromatography was also performed to characterize chemotactic factors. Pre-EM treatment BAL fluid revealed four NCA peaks (about molecular weight 15,000, 8,000, 1,500, and 300 daltons) in the elution profile, and chemotactic activity was reduced in all areas after EM therapy. These findings indicate that NCA in lavage fluid from patients with DPB consists of various components. Although it was not clear which component is predominantly affected, these results indicate that EM may inhibit the migration of neutrophils to inflammatory sites by reducing the intrapulmonary chemotactic gradient, thus, ultimately reducing pulmonary inflammation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bronchiolitis / drug therapy*
  • Bronchiolitis / pathology
  • Bronchiolitis / physiopathology
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / chemistry
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / cytology
  • Chemotactic Factors / analysis
  • Chemotaxis, Leukocyte / drug effects*
  • Chromatography, Gel
  • Erythromycin / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / drug effects
  • Lung / pathology
  • Male
  • Neutrophils / drug effects
  • Time Factors


  • Chemotactic Factors
  • Erythromycin