Are hypodense eosinophils in children activated or immature?


W. J. Stevens, University of Antwerp, Department of Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology, Universiteitsplein 1, B-2610 Antwerp, Belgium


In patients with allergic asthma and rhinitis high numbers of hypodense eosinophils (HE) have been demonstrated. In a previous study we reported that asthmatic and healthy children had more HE than their adult counterparts. We assumed that this might, in part, he due to the presence of immature eosinophils in children. To distinguish between immature and activated eosinophils, determination of eosinophil cationic protein (ECP) might be interesting as it is known that high serum levels of ECP are associated with increased activation of eosinophiis. In this study we determined (he levels of ECP in scrum in asthmatic and healthy children and adults trying to distinguish activated from immature eosinophils. We found that ECP levels were not increased in children (healthy and asthmatic) compared to adults (healthy and asthmatic). This supports the hypothesis that increased numbers of HE in childhood are, at least in part, immature eosinophils. Nevertheless, we could confirm that inflammation was present in children because soluble interleukin-2-receptor (slL-2R), a marker of lymphocyte activation, was higher in asthmatic children as compared to healthy children. IL-6, a marker of macrophage/monocyte activation, was not different in the different patient groups. We conclude that although signs of inflammation are present in childhood asthma, the increased numbers of HE in children are in part due to the presence of immature eosinophils.