Background: Serum eosinophilic cationic protein (ECP) concentrations may be useful noninvasive markers of airways inflammation in atopic asthma. However, the usefulness of serum ECP measurement for the prediction of airways inflammation in children with a history of wheezing is unknown.
Objective: To determine the test accuracy of serum ECP and blood eosinophil percentage as noninvasive markers of eosinophilic airways inflammation.
Methods: Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid and peripheral blood samples for eosinophil percentages and serum ECP were obtained from children undergoing elective surgery and who gave a history of wheezing in the previous year. Sensitivity, specificity and likelihood ratios (LH) and the area under the curve (AUC) for the receiver operator characteristic (ROC) curve were calculated for each blood marker for the prediction of airways inflammation defined by a BAL eosinophil percentage > 0.86. Data were analysed on the basis of how recently symptoms had occurred.
Results: Seventy-seven children (median age 6.75 years) were studied. An AUC of 0.75 (log serum ECP concentration) and 0.76 (log blood eosinophil percentage) was obtained for predicting airways inflammation. A serum ECP > 13 microg/L yielded a LH of 4.4, whereas using a cutoff blood eosinophils > 4% yielded a LH of 1.9, for the prediction of elevated eosinophils in BAL. Serum ECP and eosinophil percentages in BAL and blood were lowest (not statistically significant) when last symptoms had occurred more than 12 weeks previously.
Conclusions: Serum ECP and blood eosinophil percentages are useful markers for predicting eosinophilic airways inflammation in wheezing children.