A proteolytic imbalance has been implicated in the development of “classical” chronic lung disease of prematurity (CLD). However, in “new” CLD this pattern has changed. This study examines the longitudinal relationship between neutrophil proteinases and their inhibitors in ventilated preterm infants and their relationship to microbial colonisation.
Serial bronchoalveolar lavage fluid was obtained from ventilated newborn preterm infants. Neutrophil elastase (NE) activity, cell counts, metalloproteinase (MMP)-9, MMP-9/TIMP-1 complex, SerpinB1 concentration and percentage of SerpinB1 and α1-antitrypsin (AAT) in complex with elastase were measured. The presence of microbial genes was examined using PCR for 16S rRNA genes.
Statistically more infants who developed CLD had NE activity in at least one sample (10/20) compared with infants with resolved respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) (2/17). However, NE activity was present in a minority of samples, occurring as episodic peaks. Peak levels of MMP-9, MMP-9/TIMP-1 complex, percentage of AAT and SerpinB1 in complex and cell counts were all statistically greater in infants developing CLD than in infants with resolved RDS. Peak values frequently occurred as episodic spikes and strong temporal relationships were noted between all markers. The peak values for all variables were significantly correlated to each other. The presence of bacterial 16S rRNA genes was associated with the development of CLD and with elevated elastase and MMP-9.
NE activity and MMP-9 appear to be important in the development of “new” CLD with both proteinase and inhibitor concentrations increasing episodically, possibly in response to postnatal infection.