Background The appearance of eosinophils is a hallmark sign of the allergic late-phase response (LPR). Eosinophil cationic protein (ECP), a readily measurable product released from activated eosinophils, has so far not been evaluated in the ocular LPR.
Objective Two sets of trials were performed in order to investigate changes of local and systemic eosinophil activity and their possible link with symptoms and hyper-reactivity in the allergic LPR in the eye.
Methods In the first experiment, ECP was analysed in tears and serum and the clinical reaction was evaluated during a 72-h time–course after a single, high-dose allergen challenge out of season in one eye of 15 pollen-sensitized volunteers. In a second experiment, the hypothesis of an increased clinical response to an allergen challenge in an eye that had been provoked with allergen 48h previously was tested in nine sensitized individuals.
Results In the first experiment, symptoms at 10 min and 2, 4, 6, 8 and 24 h significantly exceeded base line scores of the challenged eyes. Tear ECP was significantly elevated in challenged eyes compared to contralateral eyes at 6, 8 and 24 h. In addition, symptoms and ECP release correlated significantly at the 24-h evaluation. Serum ECP remained unchanged throughout the study period. In the second experiment, conjunctival hyperreactivity 48h after an allergen challenge was not confirmed.
Conclusion ECP secretion occurs in the experimental ocular LPR and is in part associated with the magnitude of the clinical reaction, which suggests a truly pathogenic role of the activated eosinophil in pollen-induced allergic conjunctivitis.