How are the serum concentration of eosinophil cationic protein (S-ECP) and the blood eosinophil count (B-Eos) related to symptoms of asthma, allergy, and bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR)? We measured S-ECP, B-Eos, and total and specific IgE in serum in blood samples from 699 randomly selected persons 20-44 years old. They also underwent a structured interview, spirometry, a methacholine provocation test, and skin prick tests as part of the European Community Respiratory Health Survey. B-Eos and S-ECP were found to be closely related to asthma symptom score (P < 0.001), total IgE (P < 0.001), and BHR (P < 0.001). On the basis of the results, the subjects were divided into four groups: healthy controls, patients with allergic rhinitis, patients with nonallergic asthma, and patients with allergic asthma. There were significant differences in both B-Eos and S-ECP among the groups (P < 0.001), the highest values being found in the allergic asthma group. B-Eos and S-ECP each had an additive value in predicting the occurrence of asthma. Among persons with high concentrations of both variables, asthma was eight times more common than in those with low concentrations. Allergy and BHR were also found to be independently related to B-Eos and S-ECP levels. Furthermore, both B-Eos and S-ECP showed good correlation to subjective and objective measures of asthma activity. We conclude that both B-Eos and S-ECP and their interrelationship may be of value in assessing the activity of asthma. However, their role in disease management was not established in this cross-sectional study.