Background: Anti-IgE, omalizumab, inhibits the allergen response in patients with asthma. This has not been directly related to changes in inflammatory conditions. We hypothesized that anti-IgE exerts its effects by reducing airway inflammation. To that end, the effect of anti-IgE on allergen-induced inflammation in bronchial biopsies in 25 patients with asthma was investigated in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.
Methods: Allergen challenge followed by a bronchoscopy at 24 h was performed at baseline and after 12 weeks of treatment with anti-IgE or placebo. Provocative concentration that causes a 20% fall in forced expiratory volume in 1 s (PC(20)) methacholine and induced sputum was performed at baseline, 8 and 12 weeks of treatment. Changes in the early and late responses to allergen, PC(20), inflammatory cells in biopsies and sputum were assessed.
Results: Both the early and late asthmatic responses were suppressed to 15.3% and 4.7% following anti-IgE treatment as compared with placebo (P < 0.002). This was paralleled by a decrease in eosinophil counts in sputum (4-0.5%) and postallergen biopsies (15-2 cells/0.1 mm(2)) (P < 0.03). Furthermore, biopsy IgE+ cells were significantly reduced between both the groups, whereas high-affinity IgE receptor and CD4+ cells were decreased within the anti-IgE group. There were no significant differences for PC(20) methacholine.
Conclusion: The response to inhaled allergen in asthma is diminished by anti-IgE, which in bronchial mucosa is paralleled by a reduction in eosinophils and a decline in IgE-bearing cells postallergen without changing PC(20) methacholine. This suggests that the benefits of anti-IgE in asthma may be explained by a decrease in eosinophilic inflammation and IgE-bearing cells.