Bronchoalveolar lavage findings in cystic fibrosis patients with stable, clinically mild lung disease suggest ongoing infection and inflammation

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1994 Aug;150(2):448-54. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.150.2.8049828.


To determine the extent of airway infection and inflammation in adolescents and adults with cystic fibrosis (CF) who have mild lung disease and are without symptoms of active infection, we performed bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) on 18 CF patients > or = 12 yr of age who were stable, appeared clinically well, and had mean (+/- SEM) FEV1 of 79 +/- 4% of predicted. We quantitated the bacteria, inflammatory cells, immunoglobulins, and mediators of inflammatory tissue damage in the epithelial lining fluid (ELF) of these patients and in 23 healthy control subjects. All CF patients were found to be infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, and/or Haemophilus influenzae; no organisms were isolated from the control subjects. The mean number of cells in the ELF was 14 times greater in the CF patients than in the control subjects. Neutrophils constituted 57% of the recovered cells in the CF patients versus 3% in the control subjects, and their concentration was 380 times greater in the CF patients versus the control subjects. IgG, IgA, and IgM were 2.5 to 6 times greater in CF ELF versus that of control subjects. Abundant active elastase was present in the ELF of the CF patients (2.3 +/- 0.9 microM) despite threefold elevated levels of alpha 1-protease inhibitor (alpha 1-PI). No active elastase was detectable in the control subjects. alpha 1-PI was functional in CF as demonstrated by elevated elastase:alpha 1-PI complex (0.045 microM in CF versus 0.002 microM in control subjects). This active elastase caused proteolytic destruction of surface complement receptors on airway neutrophils in situ.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid* / chemistry
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid* / cytology
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid* / microbiology
  • Cell Count
  • Child
  • Cystic Fibrosis / complications
  • Cystic Fibrosis / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins / analysis
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Male
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Pancreatic Elastase / analysis
  • Receptors, Complement / analysis
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / complications
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / diagnosis*
  • alpha 1-Antitrypsin / analysis


  • Immunoglobulins
  • Receptors, Complement
  • alpha 1-Antitrypsin
  • Pancreatic Elastase