To examine the levels of airway inflammatory mediators in peripheral blood in infants and young children with wheezing and to study the possible pathogenesis of wheezing from the aspects of T helper cell 1 (Th1)/T helper cell 2 (Th2) imbalance and airway inflammation.
A total of 50 children aged 1 month to 3 years with an acute wheezing episode were enrolled as the wheezing group, and 25 age-matched healthy infants were enrolled as the healthy control group. According to the number of wheezing episodes, the wheezing group was divided into a first-episode group (n=25) and a recurrent wheezing (number of episodes ≥2) group (n=25). According to the presence or absence of high-risk factors for asthma, the wheezing group was divided into a high-risk factor group (n=22) and a non-high-risk factor group (n=28). According to the results of pathogen detection, the wheezing group was divided into a positive pathogen group (n=23) and a negative pathogen group (n=27). Levels of interleukin-2 (IL-2), interleukin-4 (IL-4), interleukin-5 (IL-5), interleukin-13 (IL-13), transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1), and total IgE (TIgE) in peripheral blood were measured for each group. For children with wheezing, eosinophil (EOS) count in peripheral blood was measured, and related samples were collected for respiratory pathogen detection.
The wheezing group had significantly higher levels of IL-4, IL-5, IL-13, TGF-β1, and TIgE in peripheral blood than the healthy control group (P<0.05). There were no significant differences in the levels of IL-2, IL-4, IL-5, IL-13, TGF-β1, and TIgE in peripheral blood between the first-episode and recurrent wheezing groups, between the high-risk factor and non-high-risk factor groups, and between the positive pathogen and negative pathogen groups (P>0.05). The correlation analysis showed that in children with wheezing, EOS count was positively correlated with IL-4 level (P<0.01), IL-4 level was positively correlated with IL-5 and IL-13 levels (P<0.01), IL-5 level was positively correlated with IL-13 level (P<0.01), and IL-2 level was positively correlated with TGF-β1 level (P<0.05).
Th1/Th2 imbalance with a predominance of Th2 is observed in infants and young children with wheezing. IL-4, IL-5, IL-13, TGF-β1, and IgE are involved in the pathogenesis of wheezing in these children. Airway inflammation is also observed in these children with wheezing, but it is not associated with the number of wheezing episodes, presence or absence of high-risk factors for asthma, or results of pathogen detection.