BACKGROUND--The neutrophil is a potent contributor to pulmonary destruction in cystic fibrosis. Since eosinophils also possess destructive potential the involvement of eosinophils in cystic fibrosis has been investigated. METHODS--Eosinophil numbers and levels of eosinophil cationic protein (ECP), a marker of eosinophil activation, were determined in the serum of 42 patients with cystic fibrosis and in the sputum of 10 of them. To determine neutrophil activation levels of myeloperoxidase (MPO) were also measured. RESULTS--In cystic fibrosis increased serum levels of ECP were detected compared with healthy non-atopic subjects. Serum ECP levels were not related to the peripheral blood eosinophil count. A strong correlation with ECP concentrations in sputum indicated that the level of ECP in serum was representative of its pulmonary level. Levels of MPO were also increased in cystic fibrosis. A strong correlation was found between MPO and pulmonary function. In addition, ECP was related to arterial oxygen and carbon dioxide tensions. Antibiotic treatment reduced neutrophil activation without effect on ECP levels. CONCLUSIONS--Until now Pseudomonas aeruginosa and neutrophils were held to be primarily responsible for progressive tissue damage in cystic fibrosis. The results of this study suggest that eosinophils might also participate in such pulmonary destruction.
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