Leukotrienes may mediate bronchoconstriction in asthma. Cysteinyl leukotriene production rises in vivo after allergen challenge, but few reports describe leukotriene concentrations in clinical asthma or in children. Using high performance liquid chromatography/radioimmunoassay, plasma and urinary leukotrienes in asthmatic children (aged 5-10 years) were measured during an acute exacerbation (peak expiratory flow (PEF) < 65%, n = 10) and one month later (PEF 74-169%, n = 9), and in non-atopic normal children (aged 1.3-13.2 years). In the asthmatics, geometric mean (95% confidence interval) plasma leukotriene B4 (LTB4) was 746 pg/ml (398 to 1403) acutely and 1026 pg/ml (662 to 1593) in remission, compared with 369 pg/ml (167 to 728) in the normal children (n = 14). Plasma cysteinyl leukotrienes were low or undetectable, but urinary leukotriene E4 (LTE4) was higher in the asthmatics during an acute episode (210 pmol/mmol creatinine, 101 to 454) and at follow up (179 pmol/mmol, 110 to 293), compared with the normal children (98 pmol/mmol, 81 to 118, n = 41). This persistent increase in plasma LTB4 and urinary LTE4 concentrations one month after a severe asthmatic episode suggests leukotriene production is related to chronic inflammation rather than to acute bronchoconstriction.
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