Background Eosinophilopoetic cytokine IL-5 enhances cysteinyl-leukotriene (cys-LT) synthesis in eosinophils in vitro. In patients with aspirin-induced asthma (AIA) bronchial biopsies revealed eosinophil infiltration and a marked increase in IL-5 positive cells.
Objective We wondered whether in AIA patients the bronchial IL-5 increase is reflected in peripheral blood, and if so, whether it is related to overproduction of cys-LT.
Methods In 11 stable patients with AIA, 32 with ATA (aspirin-tolerant asthma) and in 16 controls we measured serum IL-5 concentrations and urinary LTE4, believed to reflect global cys-LT production.
Results Serum IL-5 was detectable in 12 of 43 asthmatics, but in none of the control subjects. It was highest in the ATA group and differed significantly from the controls. There was no significant difference in IL-5 levels between: (i) the asthmatic groups studied, and (ii) AIA patients and controls. No relationship was found between serum IL-5 and urinary cys-LT.
Conclusion Overexpression of IL-5 reported in the airways of aspirin-sensitive patients with asthma was not reflected in their blood. If IL-5 affects cys-LT production, it is rather in the bronchi of the patients than in the blood.