Author(s): T. Singh, B. Bello and MF Jeebhay.

Source: Frontiers in Allergy. November 2021 | Volume 2


Cytokines elicit a pro-inflammatory response by modifying the airway microenvironment in patients with acute or chronic asthma. The expression pattern of several distinct cytokines could be a useful discriminator in asthma. This study aimed to identify asthma subject groupings based on common inflammatory patterns and to determine the relationship between these identified patterns and asthma-associated clinical indices. A sub-group of 76 dental healthcare workers (HCWs) identified from a larger cross-sectional study of 454 dental HCWs in five dental institutions were evaluated further. A self-administered questionnaire elicited the health and employment history of subjects. Sera were analyzed for atopic status, latex sensitization, and 12 cytokines (IL-1b, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12p70, eotaxin, GM-CSF, TNF-a). Pre and post-bronchodilator spirometry was performed on all HCWs. Data clustering and factor analysis were used to identify inflammatory cluster patterns of cytokines. Associations between the cytokine cluster groupings and relevant asthma-associated clinical indices were determined using multivariate logistic regression. The classification of asthma subtype based on cytokine patterns demonstrated both eosinophilic and neutrophilic inflammatory responses. Four phenotypically distinct subgroups relating to the severity of inflammation (acute or chronic) of the cell types were identified. Cytokine determinants for the neutrophilic subtype included IL-1b, 6, 8, 10, 12p70, and TNF- a whereas for the eosinophilic subtype these included IL-3, 4, 5, 7, eotaxin, and GM-CSF. The multivariate models showed a significant association between work-related chest symptoms and all four inflammatory patterns. However, stronger associations were observed for the acute neutrophilic (OR = 6.00, p < 0.05) compared to acute and chronic eosinophilic responses (OR = 4.30, p < 0.05; OR = 4.93, p < 0.05), respectively. Subjects with airway obstruction were more likely to have a mixed cellular infiltrate. The odds of work-exacerbated asthma were increased in acute or chronic eosinophilia (OR = 7.75 and 8.12; p < 0.05), respectively as well as with acute neutrophilia (OR = 6) sub-type. This study demonstrated that neutrophilic inflammatory cell asthma phenotypes coexist with eosinophilic inflammatory phenotypes suggesting a possible dual pathway for asthma in dental health workers, probably due to mixed exposures to high molecular weight (e.g., latex) and low molecular weight (e.g., acrylates) agents.

Keywords: Neutrophilic asthma, Eosinophilic asthma, Cytokines, Work-related asthma, Phenotypes, Endotypes