Introduction: Sputum induction is a tool to monitor airway inflammation, yet it may induce by itself a neutrophilic response when repeated within 24 to 48 h. This limits its repeated use in clinical trials.
Objective: We aimed to investigate the induction and resolution of inflammation generated by repeated sputum inductions.
Subjects and design: Sixteen healthy intermittent smokers participated in a study on the short-term effects of smoking. The nonsmoking arm consisted of seven successive sputum inductions with increasing time intervals (3, 6, 12, 24, 48, and 96 h). Inflammatory cellular characteristics and different soluble mediators were investigated.
Measurements and results: The median percentage of sputum neutrophils increased significantly from baseline to 6 h (58.9% [range, 31.8 to 94.2%] to 83.2% [range, 26.7 to 98.3%], respectively). Surprisingly, the percentage of eosinophils also increased significantly from baseline to 6, 12, 24, and 48 h, as follows: 0.3% (range, 0.0 to 1.2%) to 1.7% (range, 0.0 to 15.5%), 2.2% (range, 0.5 to 12.5%), 1.2% (range, 0.0 to 4.8%), and 0.8% (range, 0.0 to 2.8%), respectively. Interleukin-8 increased significantly from baseline to 24 h (1,553 pg/mL [range, 462 to 8,192 pg/mL] to 2,178 pg/mL [range, 666 to 128,544 pg/mL]).
Conclusions: Repeated sputum inductions should preferably be avoided within 48 h. It induces not only a short-lived neutrophilic response but also a prolonged eosinophilic inflammatory response in healthy subjects, possibly by local changes in osmolarity, and subsequent epithelial and/or mast cell activation.