Inhaled flunisolide suppresses the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis, but has minimal systemic immune effects in healthy cats

Carol R. Reinero, Lisa Brownlee, Kendra C. Decile, Bernard Seguin, Roy D. Berghaus, Richard W Nelson, Laurel J Gershwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Feline bronchial disease is commonly treated with oral glucocorticoids (OGC), which might be contraindicated in cats with certain infectious, endocrine, renal, or cardiac diseases. Inhalant GC (IGC) maximize local efficacy and minimize systemic bioavailability. We evaluated systemic endocrine and immune effects of IGC (flunisolide, 250 μg/puff q12h) versus OGC (prednisone, 10 mg/d PO) and placebo. Six healthy cats received each drug for 2 weeks followed by a 1-month washout. Testing included determination of single early morning cortisol concentration, results of ACTH stimulation, the urine cortisol-to-creatinine ratio (UC : Cr), lymphocyte phenotype, lymphocyte blastogenesis, serum total IgA and IgM concentrations, and cytokine profiles. Significant differences between treatments were not apparent for serum immunoglobulin concentrations, or expression (mRNA) for the cytokines, interleukin (IL-) 2, IL-4, and IL-10, or gamma interferon. Single early morning cortisol concentration was lower for IGC (0.68 ± 0.74 μg/dL), compared with that associated with placebo (2.82 ± 1.94 μg/dL; P = .033). The ACTH-stimulated peak cortisol concentrations were lower after treatment in cats receiving IGC (before, 8.5 ± 50.2 μg/dL; after, 2.9 ± 3.3 μg/dL, P = .0004), but not OGC (before, 8.0 ± 6.1 μg/dL; after, 6.0 ± 4.5 μg/dL, P = .07). Similarly, UC:Cr (0.8 ± 0.8) before IGC was lower than the value (5.02 ± 3.62; P = .019) after IGC. Compared with placebo, cats given OGC, but not IGC, had significantly lower total percentages of T and B cells. Lymphocyte proliferation was decreased in cats receiving OGC, but not IGC, in comparison with placebo (6.9 ± 3.3; 24.0 ± 6.5; 18.8 ± 14.0, respectively). Significantly more IL-10 mRNA transcription was detected in cats administered OGC or IGC, compared with placebo. Although IGC suppress the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis, IGC had minimal effects on the systemic adaptive immune system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-64
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006


  • Adaptive immunity
  • Flunisolide
  • Glucocorticoid
  • Hypothalamic-pituitary- adrenal-axis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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