Eosinophilic colitis: an update on pathophysiology and treatment

Br Med Bull. 2011:100:59-72. doi: 10.1093/bmb/ldr045. Epub 2011 Oct 19.


Background: Primary eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders, a spectrum of inflammatory conditions, occurs when eosinophils selectively infiltrate the gut in the absence of known causes for such tissue eosinophilia. These may be classified into eosinophilic esophagitis, eosinophilic gastroenteritis and eosinophilic colitis (EC). This review focuses on EC: its pathogenesis, epidemiology, clinical presentation, diagnosis and current approach to treatment.

Sources of data: A literature review published in English was performed using Pubmed, Ovid, Google scholar search engines with the following keywords: eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorder, EC, eosinophils, colitis and gastrointestinal.

Areas of agreement: The basis for primary EC appears related to increased sensitivity to allergens, principally as a food allergy in infants and a T lymphocyte-mediated event in adults. Endoscopic changes are generally modest, featuring edema and patchy granularity.

Areas of controversy: Clear clinical and pathological diagnostic criteria of EC and its management strategy.

Growing points: Intestinal involvement of EC is primarily mucosal, presenting as a mild self-limited proctitis in infants and self-limited colitis in young adults. Therapeutic approaches based on case reports tend to use either elimination diets to avoid a presumed allergen; agents traditionally used in inflammatory disease or targeted drugs like anti-histamines or leukotriene receptor antagonists.

Areas timely for developing research: Prospective randomized controlled trials addressing the disease natural history, possible preventive methods and effective medical approach and long-term prognosis are required.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Colitis / diagnosis
  • Colitis / epidemiology
  • Colitis / etiology
  • Colitis / therapy*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Eosinophilia / diagnosis
  • Eosinophilia / epidemiology
  • Eosinophilia / etiology
  • Eosinophilia / therapy*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / complications
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Prognosis