Airway inflammatory profile is correlated with symptoms in stable COPD: A longitudinal proof-of-concept cohort study

Marco Contoli, Simonetta Baraldo, Valentina Conti, Giulia Gnesini, Brunilda Marku, Paolo Casolari, Paola Scrigner, Paolo Morelli, Marina Saetta, Antonio Spanevello, Alberto Papi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and objective: Symptoms negatively impact the quality of life and long-term prognosis of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Little is known about the relationship linking airway inflammation and symptoms in stable COPD. In this study, we evaluated whether respiratory symptoms in COPD are related to sputum inflammatory cellular profile and whether symptom changes are associated with changes in airway inflammation. Methods: A total of 40 patients with stable COPD with moderate-to-severe airflow obstruction were enrolled. Patients were visited weekly over 4 weeks. At each visit, patients underwent clinical assessments, lung function tests and sputum induction. Patients recorded daily dyspnoea, sputum and cough scores. Results: The changes between two consecutive visits in the percent of sputum neutrophils and eosinophils were related to the changes in the cough (P < 0.001; r = 0.63) and dyspnoea scores (P < 0.001; r = 0.58) of the prior week. Furthermore, using regression analyses, we were able to demonstrate that changes in the cough score were specifically associated to the change in neutrophils, while changes in the dyspnoea score and use of rescue medications were associated with changes in eosinophils numbers. Conclusion: Our study showed an association between symptoms and the sputum inflammatory profile. In particular, changes in symptoms (cough and dyspnoea) were correlated with changes in the specific sputum inflammatory cell components of airway inflammation (neutrophils and eosinophils, respectively), providing novel information on the mechanisms of disease manifestation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-88
Number of pages9
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2020


  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • eosinophils
  • inflammation
  • neutrophils
  • symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine

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