Does airways inflammation pre-exist before late onset wheeze in children?

S. Thavagnanam, G. Williamson, Madeleine Ennis, Liam Heaney, Michael Shields

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Epidemiological studies show that some children develop wheezing after 3 yr of age which tends to persist. It is unknown how this starts or whether there is a period of asymptomatic inflammation. The aim of this study is to determine whether lower airway allergic inflammation pre-exists in late onset childhood wheeze (LOCW). Follow-up study of children below 5 yr who had a non-bronchoscopic bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) performed during elective surgery. The children had acted as normal controls. A modified ISAAC questionnaire was sent out at least 7 yr following the initial BAL, and this was used to ascertain whether any children had subsequently developed wheezing or other atopic disease (eczema, allergic rhinitis). Cellular and cytokine data from the original BAL were compared between those who never wheezed (NW) and those who had developed LOCW. Eighty-one normal non-asthmatic children were recruited with a median age of 3.2 . Of the 65 children contactable, 9 (16.7%) had developed wheeze, 11 (18.5%) developed eczema and 14 (22.2%) developed hay fever. In five patients, wheeze symptoms developed mean 3.3- yr (range: 2–5 yr) post-BAL. Serum IgE and blood eosinophils were not different in the LOCW and NW, although the blood white cell count was lower in the LOCW group. The median BAL eosinophil % was significantly increased in the patients with LOCW (1.55%, IQR: 0.33 to 3.92) compared to the children who never wheezed, NW (0.1, IQR: 0.0 to 0.3, p = 0.01). No differences were detected for other cell types. There are no significant differences in BAL cytokine concentrations between children with LOCW and NW children. Before late onset childhood wheezing developed, we found evidence of elevated eosinophils in the airways. These data suggest pre-existent airways inflammation in childhood asthma some years before clinical presentation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1002-1007
Number of pages6
JournalPediatric Allergy & Immunology
Volume21 (7)
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Immunology


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