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Eur Clin Respir J. 2016 Nov 7;3:31813. doi: 10.3402/ecrj.v3.31813. eCollection 2016.

Severe asthma: anti-IgE or anti-IL-5?

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2nd Department of Respiratory Medicine, Attikon University Hospital, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece.
1st Department of Respiratory Medicine, 'Sotiria' Hospital of Chest Diseases, Medical School, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece;


Severe asthma is a discrete clinical entity characterised by recurrent exacerbations, reduced quality of life and poor asthma control as ordinary treatment regimens remain inadequate. Difficulty in managing severe asthma derives partly from the multiple existing phenotypes and our inability to recognise them. Though the exact pathogenetic pathway of severe allergic asthma remains unclear, it is known that numerous inflammatory cells and cytokines are involved, and eosinophils represent a key inflammatory cell mediator. Anti-IgE (omalizumab) and anti-IL-5 (mepolizumab) antibodies are biological agents that interfere in different steps of the Th2 inflammatory cascade and are licensed in severe asthma. Both exhibit a favourable clinical outcome as they reduce exacerbation rate and improve asthma control and quality of life, while mepolizumab also induces an oral steroid sparing effect. Nevertheless, it is still questionable which agent is more suitable in the management of severe allergic asthma since no comparable studies have been conducted. Omalizumab's established effectiveness in clinical practice over a long period is complemented by a beneficial effect on airway remodelling process mediated mainly through its impact on eosinophils and other parameters strongly related to eosinophilic inflammation. However, it is possible that mepolizumab through nearly depleting eosinophils could have a similar effect on airway remodelling. Moreover, to date, markers indicative of the patient population responding to each treatment are unavailable although baseline eosinophils and exacerbation rate in the previous year demonstrate a predictive value regarding anti-IL-5 therapy effectiveness. On the other hand, a better therapeutic response for omalizumab has been observed when low forced expiratory volume in 1 sec, high-dose inhaled corticosteroids and increased IgE concentrations are present. Consequently, conclusions are not yet safe to be drawn based on existing knowledge, and additional research is necessary to unravel the remaining issues for the severe asthmatic population.


IL-5; IgE; asthma control; inflammation; monoclonal antibodies; severe asthma

Conflict of interest statement

and funding The authors have not received any funding or benefits from industry or elsewhere to conduct this study.

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