Exhaled nitric oxide and eosinophil sputum markers are considered noninvasive ways in which to evaluate airway inflammation in asthma. The aim of this study was to evaluate the relationships between these methods of evaluation in asthmatic children. In a cross-sectional study of 25 mild-moderate asthmatic children (aged 6-13 yrs, 10 patients on inhaled steroids) exhaled NO was measured along with induced sputum by inhalation of hypertonic saline solution. The sputum was processed for eosinophil count and eosinophil cationic protein (ECP) determination. Serum ECP and lung function (forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1)) were also measured. A significant correlation was observed between exhaled NO and sputum eosinophils (r = 0.438, p = 0.032) as well as between sputum eosinophils and sputum ECP (r = 0.532, p<0.01). No correlation was observed among exhaled NO and serum ECP, sputum ECP, FEV1, respectively. Furthermore no correlation was observed between sputum eosinophil (%) and serum ECP and between sputum eosinophils and FEV1. There was no correlation among the investigated parameters in children treated with inhaled steroids. In conclusion, exhaled NO and sputum eosinophil counts are concordant in evaluating the degree of airway inflammation in patients with mild-to-moderate asthma. However, the association between these two noninvasive markers becomes less in steroid treated patients.
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