Airway inflammation in COPD assessed by sputum levels of interleukin-8

Chest. 1997 Aug;112(2):505-10. doi: 10.1378/chest.112.2.505.


Study objective: To assess the characteristics of airway inflammation in patients with COPD.

Methods: We measured the sputum concentration of interleukin-8 (IL-8), a chemokine involved in the migration and activation of neutrophils and eosinophils. We also measured myeloperoxidase (MPO) as a parameter of neutrophil activity and eosinophil cationic protein (ECP) as a parameter of eosinophil activity. Spontaneous sputum samples were obtained from 33 patients with stable COPD and 30 patients with asthma. Induced sputum samples were obtained from 12 normal control subjects.

Results: The sputum concentration of IL-8 was significantly higher in the patients with COPD than in the patients with asthma or in the control subjects (p<0.0001). Concentrations of MPO and ECP were significantly higher in the patients with COPD than in the control subjects but did not differ significantly between the patients with COPD and those with asthma. In the patients with COPD, the sputum concentration of IL-8 was significantly correlated with the concentration of MPO (r=0.55, p<0.001) and of ECP (r=0.53, p<0.01). The sputum concentration of IL-8 was negatively correlated with FEV1/FVC (r=-0.78, p<0.0001) in the COPD group.

Conclusions: Results suggest the activation of both neutrophils and eosinophils in the airways of patients with COPD. It appears that IL-8 plays a primary role in this activation. The sputum concentration of IL-8 appeared to be closely associated with the degree of airflow obstruction in patients with COPD and may serve as a marker in evaluating the severity of airway inflammation, which is a risk factor for COPD.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Blood Proteins / analysis
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Eosinophil Granule Proteins
  • Eosinophils / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / analysis
  • Interleukin-8 / analysis*
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / immunology*
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neutrophil Activation
  • Peroxidase / analysis
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Ribonucleases*
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Sputum / chemistry
  • Sputum / cytology
  • Sputum / immunology*


  • Blood Proteins
  • Eosinophil Granule Proteins
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Interleukin-8
  • Peroxidase
  • Ribonucleases