Inhaled corticosteroid use is associated with increased circulating T regulatory cells in children with asthma


BACKGROUND: T regulatory (Treg) cells are important in balancing immune responses and dysregulation of Treg cells has been implicated in the pathogenesis of multiple disease states including asthma. In this study, our primary aim was to determine Treg cell frequency in the peripheral blood of children with and without asthma. The secondary aim was to explore the association between Treg cell frequency with allergen sensitization, disease severity and medication use. METHODS: Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from healthy control subjects (N = 93) and asthmatic children of varying disease severity (N = 66) were characterized by multi-parameter flow cytometry. RESULTS: Our findings demonstrate that children with asthma had a significantly increased frequency of Treg cells compared to children without asthma. Using a multivariate model, increased Treg cell frequency in children with asthma was most directly associated with inhaled corticosteroid use, and not asthma severity, allergic sensitization, or atopic status of the asthma. CONCLUSION: We conclude that low dose, local airway administration of corticosteroids is sufficient to impact the frequency of Treg cells in the peripheral blood. These data highlight the importance of considering medication exposure when studying Treg cells and suggest inhaled corticosteroid use in asthmatics may improve disease control through increased Treg cell frequency.

Clinical & Molecular Allergy