The effect of azithromycin on sputum inflammatory markers in bronchiectasis

L C Terpstra*, J Altenburg, H J Doodeman, Y S Sabogal Piñeros, R Lutter, H G M Heijerman, W G Boersma

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Long term macrolide treatment has been found beneficial in bronchiectasis (BE) -pathogical bronchial dilatation- possibly due to a combined anti-bacterial and immunomodulatory effect. The exact mechanism of inflammatory response is unknown. Here, we investigated the effect of maintenance macrolide treatment on the inflammatory response in BE. In addition, we assessed the inflammatory profile in BE in relation to disease severity. Methods: During the BAT randomized controlled trial (investigating the effect of 1 year of azithromycin (AZM) in 83 BE patients), data on BE severity, lung function and sputum microbiology was collected. For the current study, a wide range of inflammatory markers were analysed in 3- monthly sputum samples in all participants. Results: At baseline, marked neutrophilic but also eosinophilic inflammation was present in both groups, which remained stable throughout the study and was not affected by AZM treatment. Significant upregulation of pro-inflammatory markers correlated with FEV 1 < 50% (TNFα, ECP, IL-21, IL-1, p = 0.01- 0.05), H. influenzae (HI) colonization (MPO, ECP, MIP-1, TNFα, IL-21, Il-8, IL-1, IL-1α, p < 0.001 – 0.04) and number of exacerbations (MPO, ECP, VEGF, MMP-9, p = 0.003 – 0.01). Surprisingly, colonization with P. aeruginosa (PA) was found to correlate with an attenuated inflammatory response compared to non-PA colonized. In placebo-treated patients, presence of an infectious exacerbation was reflected by a significant excessive increase in inflammation as compared to a non-significant upregulation in the AZM-treated patients. Conclusion: One year of AZM treatment did not result in attenuation of the inflammatory response in BE. Increasing disease severity and the presence of an exacerbation were reflected by upregulation of pro-inflammatory markers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number151
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Pulmonary Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Azithromycin (AZM)
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Inflammation
  • Inflammatory markers


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