Effects of an interleukin-5 blocking monoclonal antibody on eosinophils, airway hyper-responsiveness, and the late asthmatic response

Lancet. 2000 Dec;356(9248):2144-8. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(00)03496-6.


Background: Interleukin-5 (IL-5) is essential for the formation of eosinophils, which are thought to have a major role in the pathogenesis of asthma and other allergic diseases. We aimed to assess the effects of monoclonal antibody to IL-5 on blood and sputum eosinophils, airway hyper-responsiveness, and the late asthmatic reaction to inhaled allergen in patients with mild asthma.

Methods: We did a double-blind randomised placebo-controlled trial, in which a single intravenous infusion of humanised (IgG-K) monoclonal antibody to IL-5 (SB-240563) was given at doses of 2.5 mg/kg (n=8) or 10.0 mg/kg (n=8). The effects of treatment on responses to inhaled allergen challenge, sputum eosinophils, and airway hyper-responsiveness to histamine were measured at weeks 1 and 4 with monitoring of blood eosinophil counts for up to 16 weeks.

Findings: Monoclonal antibody against IL-5 lowered the mean blood eosinophil count at day 29 from 0.25x10(9)/L (95% CI 0.16-0.34) in the placebo group to 0.04x10(9)/L (0.00-0.07) in the 10 mg/kg group (p<0.0001), and prevented the blood eosinophilia that follows allergen challenge. After inhaled allergen challenge, 9 days after treatment, the percentage sputum eosinophils were 12.2% in the placebo group and lowered to 0.9% (-1.2 to 3.0; p=0.0076) in the 10 mg/kg group, and this effect persisted at day 30 after the dose. There was no significant effect of monoclonal antibody to IL-5 on the late asthmatic response or on airway hyper-responsiveness to histamine.

Interpretation: A single dose of monoclonal antibody to IL-5 decreased blood eosinophils for up to 16 weeks and sputum eosinophils at 4 weeks, which has considerable therapeutic potential for asthma and allergy. However, our findings question the role of eosinophils in mediating the late asthmatic response and causing airway hyper-responsiveness.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Asthma / therapy*
  • Bronchial Provocation Tests
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Eosinophils / metabolism*
  • Histamine / blood
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Interleukin-5 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Male
  • Sputum / cytology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Interleukin-5
  • Histamine