Transferrin serves as the primary iron transport protein in serum, but it also is present in the lower respiratory tract where it has antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Prior studies indicate that patients with respiratory failure (RF) due to ARDS have increased concentrations of transferrin in the lower respiratory tract, which is attributed to increased lung vascular permeability. It is unclear whether mechanical ventilation contributes to increased lung transferrin content in patients with ANDS, although mechanical ventilation may increase lung microvascular permeability. To assess whether mechanical ventilation in patients with RF due to causes other than ARDS is also associated with increased respiratory tract concentrations of transferrin, we compared transferrin concentrations in serum and lung lavage fluid obtained from 12 mechanically ventilated patients with RF attributable to COPD, 6 patients with ARDS, and 15 healthy volunteers. Serum transferrin concentrations in patients with RF due to COPD were variable, but mean concentrations were similar to those in control subjects (336 ± 58 vs 307 ± 9 [SE] mg/dL), whereas serum transferrin concentrations were decreased in patients with ARDS (182 ± 68 mg/dL; p<0.05). Compared with control subjects, lavage fluid recovered from patients with RF due to COPD contained significantly decreased concentrations of transferrin (1.56 ± 0.24 vs 4.27 ± 0.44 μg/mL; p<0.001), whereas transferrin concentrations in lavage fluid recovered from patients with ARDS were increased (15.72 ± 2.01 μg/mL; p<0.001). Transferrin concentrations of lavage fluid also were decreased in COPD patients when normalized for lavage fluid protein content (4.35 ± 0.72 vs 19.96 ± 3.13 μg/mg in control subjects, p<0.001). These data indicate that mechanical ventilation of patients with COPD is associated with decreased lung transferrin concentrations, in contrast to an increased transferrin concentration found in patients with ARDS. Decreased transferrin concentrations in the lower respiratory tract may decrease defenses against oxidant injury and bacterial infection in patients with RF due to COPD.
- lung lavage
- respiratory failure
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
- Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine