An increase in cysteinyl-leukotrienes (LTs) after specific inhalation challenge (SIC) with common allergens in patients with atopic asthma has been shown previously, but there are scarce data with occupational agents. We sought to determine whether there are differences in lower airway inflammatory markers and the production of cytokines and eicosanoids between patients with a positive or negative SIC response to occupational agents.
Twenty-six patients with suspected occupational asthma and 13 healthy control subjects were studied. Spirometry, methacholine challenge, and sputum induction were performed at baseline and 24 h after SIC with occupational agents. Several cytokines and inflammatory mediators, including eicosanoids, were measured in sputum.
Twenty-six SICs were carried out with high-molecular-weight or low-molecular-weight agents, and the responses were positive in 18 patients. SIC elicited nine early asthmatic responses, two dual asthmatic responses, and seven isolated late asthmatic responses. Significant increments in sputum eosinophil counts were found only in patients with positive SIC responses compared with baseline values. Interleukin-10 levels were decreased in patients with positive and negative SIC responses compared to those in healthy control subjects. A significant increase (p < 0.05) in the LTC4/prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) ratio was observed in patients after positive SIC responses compared to those with negative SIC responses.
Overexpression of LTC4, relative underproduction of PGE2, and greater airway eosinophilia were observed in patients with positive SIC responses.