Eosinophils are a recognized feature of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but their tissue distribution and functional importance in Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) remain obscure. This study describes an improved immunohistochemical protocol to identify eosinophils in full thickness bowel wall specimens of IBD (n=40) and their in situ relationships with the chemoattractants eotaxin and RANTES. Eosinophils were identified using immunohistochemistry with a combination of monoclonal antibodies (EG1+EG2+MBP), an ultrasensitive technique superior to other methodologies, and their tissue distributions were related to those for eotaxin, RANTES, mast cells and neutrophils. Increased numbers of eosinophils (up to 400 cells/mm(2)) were observed in active, fulminant inflammation in both CD and UC, this being related to the severity of inflammation and not the diagnosis of the two disorders. The chemoattractants eotaxin (CCL11) and RANTES (CCL5) were upregulated in IBD tissues showing eosinophilia. Neutrophils and mast cells were commonly associated with eosinophil accumulations. Eosinophil numbers and their in situ activation are increased in active rather than chronic IBD. The observations strongly suggest a pivotal role for the eosinophil and its potent mediators in many pathophysiological symptoms of CD and UC, where it represents the major proportion of all granulocytic cells in active inflammatory bowel disease.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.