Purpose of review: Human eosinophils were first identified and named by Paul Ehrlich in 1879 on the basis of the cell's granular uptake of eosin. Although eosinophils represent approximately 1% of peripheral blood leukocytes, they have the propensity to leave the blood stream and migrate into inflamed tissues. Eosinophils and their mediators are critical effectors to asthma and eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA). Eosinophils are equipped with a large number of cell-surface receptors and produce specific cytokines and chemokines.
Recent findings: Eosinophils are the major source of interleukin-5 and highly express the interleukin-5Rα on their surface. Clinical trials evaluating monoclonal antibodies to interleukin-5 (mepolizumab and reslizumab) and its receptor interleukin-5Rα (benralizumab) have been or are underway in patients with eosinophilic asthma, EGPA and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Overall, targeting interleukin-5/interleukin-5Rα is associated with a marked decrease in blood and sputum eosinophilia, the number of exacerbations and improvement of some clinical parameters in adult patients with severe eosinophilic asthma. Pilot studies suggest that mepolizumab might be a glucocorticoid-sparing treatment in patients with EGPA. A preliminary study found that benralizumab did not reduce the exacerbations and did modify lung function in patients with eosinophilic COPD.
Summary: The review examines recent advances in the biology of eosinophils and how targeting the interleukin-5 pathway might offer benefit to some patients with severe asthma, EGPA, and COPD. Interleukin-5/interleukin-5Rα-targeted treatments offer promises to patients with eosinophilic respiratory disorders.