Eosinophil cationic protein (ECP), a cytotoxic protein contained in the granules of eosinophils, has been suggested as having an important role in the pathogenesis of asthma. To determine whether ECP plays a similar role in bronchiolitis, we tested samples of nasopharyngeal secretions, obtained from a group of 47 children with various forms of illness related to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and from 26 children with non-RSV upper respiratory tract illness or bacterial pneumonia, for the presence of ECP by means of a double-antibody radioimmunoassay. Concentrations of ECP in children with RSV bronchiolitis were significantly higher (166.8 ng/ml) than the mean concentration of ECP in both groups of children with RSV upper respiratory tract illness (43.5 ng/ml, p<0.002) and RSV lower respiratory tract disease without wheezing (29.1 ng/ml; p<0.0002). Children with non-RSV upper respiratory tract illness or bacterial pneumonia had levels of ECP in nasopharyngeal secretions similar to those of children with RSV upper respiratory tract illness or RSV pneumonia. High ECP levels in nasopharyngeal secretions (>50 ng/ml) were predictive of the development of bronchiolitis at the time of RSV infection (p<0.001), and the individual ECP levels correlated with severity of the disease as determined by the initial Pao2 concentrations (p <0.05). These data suggest that eosinophil degranulation in the respiratory tract occurs during RSV bronchiolitis and may play a significant role in the development of virus-induced airway obstruction.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health