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External validation of blood eosinophils, FENO and serum periostin as surrogates for sputum eosinophils in asthma


Background Monitoring sputum eosinophils in asthma predicts exacerbations and improves management of asthma. Thus far, blood eosinophils and FENO show contradictory results in predicting eosinophilic airway inflammation. More recently, serum periostin was proposed as a novel biomarker for eosinophilic inflammation.

Objectives Quantifying the mutual relationships of blood eosinophils, FENO, and serum periostin with sputum eosinophils by external validation in two independent cohorts across various severities of asthma.

Methods The first cohort consisted of 110 patients with mild to moderate asthma (external validation cohort). The replication cohort consisted of 37 patients with moderate to severe asthma. Both cohorts were evaluated cross-sectionally. Sputum was induced for the assessment of eosinophils. In parallel, blood eosinophil counts, serum periostin concentrations and FENO were assessed. The diagnostic accuracy of these markers to identify eosinophilic asthma (sputum eosinophils ≥3%) was calculated using receiver operating characteristics area under the curve (ROC AUC).

Results In the external validation cohort, ROC AUC for blood eosinophils was 89% (p<0.001) and for FENO level 78% (p<0.001) to detect sputum eosinophilia ≥3%. Serum periostin was not able to distinguish eosinophilic from non-eosinophilic airway inflammation (ROC AUC=55%, p=0.44). When combining these three variables, no improvement was seen. The diagnostic value of blood eosinophils was confirmed in the replication cohort (ROC AUC 85%, p<0.001).

Conclusions In patients with mild to moderate asthma, as well as patients with more severe asthma, blood eosinophils had the highest accuracy in the identification of sputum eosinophilia in asthma. The use of blood eosinophils can facilitate individualised treatment and management of asthma.

Trial registration NTR1846 and NTR2364.

  • Asthma
  • Eosinophil Biology

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