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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013 Jun;131(6):1576-82. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2013.02.042. Epub 2013 Apr 25.

Anti-IL-5 therapy reduces mast cell and IL-9 cell numbers in pediatric patients with eosinophilic esophagitis.

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Division of Allergy and Immunology, University of California, San Diego, Rady Children's Hospital, San Diego, Calif., USA.



Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) is a clinicopathologic entity of increasing worldwide prevalence. IL-5 is essential for eosinophil trafficking, and anti-IL-5 therapy decreases esophageal eosinophilia. EoE is associated with prominent mast cell infiltration.


We investigated whether anti-IL-5 (mepolizumab) treatment reduced esophageal mast cell accumulation in biopsy specimens from pediatric patients with EoE from a previous randomized anti-IL-5 trial.


A subanalysis was completed for children treated with 0.55, 2.5, or 10 mg/kg mepolizumab monthly for 12 weeks followed by no treatment until week 24. Quantitative immunochemistry was used to assess the numbers of eosinophils, tryptase-positive mast cells, IL-9(+) cells, and mast cell-eosinophil couplets before and after treatment.


Forty-three biopsy specimens had adequate tissue for paired analysis. Forty percent of subjects responded to anti-IL-5 (defined as <15 eosinophils per high-power field [hpf] after mepolizumab therapy), and 77% of all subjects had decreased numbers of mast cells after anti-IL-5. In responders epithelial mast cell numbers decreased from 62 to 19 per hpf (P < .001), were significantly lower than in nonresponders after therapy (P < .05), and correlated with eosinophil numbers (r = 0.75, P < .0001). Mast cells and eosinophils were found in couplets before therapy, and these were significantly decreased only in responders after anti-IL-5 (P < .001). Esophageal eosinophils comprised the majority of cells that made the mast cell growth factor IL-9. IL-9(+) cell numbers decreased from 102 to 71 per hpf (P < .001) after anti-IL-5.


Pediatric patients with EoE had significantly fewer mast cells, IL-9(+) cells, and mast cell-eosinophil couplets in the esophageal epithelium after anti-IL-5 therapy. Because eosinophils were one source of IL-9, they might support esophageal mastocytosis.

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