Background: Exacerbations are an important feature of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), accounting for a large proportion of health care costs. They are associated with increased airway inflammation and oxidative stress.
Methods: Concentrations of leukotriene B4 (LTB4), a marker of inflammation, and 8-isoprostane, a marker of oxidative stress, were measured in the exhaled breath condensate of 21 patients (11 M) with COPD during an exacerbation and 2 weeks after treatment with antibiotics. In 12 patients who had no further exacerbations these markers were also measured after 2 months.
Results: LTB4 concentrations were raised during the COPD exacerbation (mean (SE) 15.8 (1.1) pg/ml and fell after treatment with antibiotics to 9.9 (0.9) pg/ml (p<0.0001). In 12 patients the level of LTB4 fell further from 10.6 (1.1) pg/ml to 8.5 (0.8) pg/ml (p<0.005) after 2 months. In 12 normal age matched subjects the LTB4 levels were 7.7 (0.5) pg/ml. Concentrations of 8-isoprostane were also increased during the exacerbation (13.0 (0.9) pg/ml) and fell after antibiotic treatment to 9.0 (0.6) pg/ml (p<0.0001). In 12 patients there was a further fall from 9.3 (0.7) pg/ml to 6.0 (0.7) pg/ml (p<0.001) after 2 months compared with normal subjects (6.2 (0.4) pg/ml).
Conclusions: Non-invasive markers of inflammation and oxidative stress are increased during an infective exacerbation of COPD and only slowly recover after treatment with antibiotics.