American Thoracic Society Journal news tips for June 2003 (second issue)


In a pilot study, researchers who administered a single dose of humanized anti-human interleuken (IL)-5 antibody to patients with severe, persistent asthma significantly reduced, for up to 30 days, the number of eosinophils in the blood. (The number of these cells characteristically rises during mucosal inflammation underlying allergic disorders.) In addition, the investigators demonstrated a limited short-lived improvement in patient pulmonary function. All participants in the trial were being treated for their disease with either oral or high doses of inhaled steroids. Yet even high doses of inhaled steroids did not significantly reduce peripheral blood eosinophil levels. (Eosinophils, a type of white blood cell, normally constitute from 1 to 3 percent of the total white blood cell count. Elevated levels of activated eosinophils are believed to play a key role in the pathophysiology of asthma and rhinitis.) After administration of the antibody to patients in this pilot study, the researchers observed a trend toward improvement in baseline pulmonary function test scores. In this controlled study, a smaller number of participants received a placebo dose. The investigators said that although circumstantial evidence links IL-5 and eosinophils to the pathophysiology of asthma, this relationship remains unproved. They noted that larger clinical trials to assess the efficacy of anti-IL-5 antibodies should be performed to address many important questions related to points raised by this pilot project. Their research appears in the second issue for June 2003 of the American Thoracic Society's peer-reviewed American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.


In research on a group of 95 elderly patients from a nursing home who were hospitalized for severe aspiration pneumonia

Contact: Cathy Carlomagno
American Thoracic Society

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