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Keywords:

  • otitis media with effusion;
  • chronic otitis media;
  • bronchial asthma;
  • eosinophils;
  • IgE-mediated allergy

Background Although patients with intractable otitis media associated with bronchial asthma have extensive accumulation of eosinophils in the middle ear mucosa and middle ear effusion, systematic histological and immunohistochemical studies have not been performed.

Objectives To clarify the pathogenesis of middle ear diseases, we carried out immunohistochemical studies on middle ear specimens, particularly focusing on the characteristics of accumulated eosinophils.

Methods Middle ear specimens obtained from eight adult patients and from 17 controls were immunohistochemically stained using monoclonal antibodies against EG1, EG2, mast cell tryptase, IgA and IgE. The concentration of eosinophil cationic protein (ECP) in middle ear effusion samples was also measured.

Results In the asthmatic patients, severe round-cell infiltration was observed in the submucosa and most of the EG1-positive cells were also EG2-positive. In the control patients, the mucosa showed a fibrotic change with a few inflammatory cells, and EG1- or EG2-positive cells were quite few. The expression of IgE was found not only on the surface of mast cells but also within the plasma cells in the asthmatic patients, and the number of IgE-positive cells was about twice as high as that of mast cells. A significantly higher concentration of ECP was noted in middle ear effusion obtained from the asthmatic patients than that from the control patients.

Conclusion Most of the eosinophils in the middle ear mucosa and middle ear effusion were activated, resulting in degranulation and release of ECP, and local IgE production occurs in the middle ear mucosa, indicating that the intractable inflammation is closely associated with IgE-mediated late phase response with eosinophil accumulation.