Increased levels of interleukin 5 are associated with the generation of eosinophilia in drug-induced hypersensitivity syndrome

Br J Dermatol. 1998 Dec;139(6):1026-32. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2133.1998.02559.x.


Hypersensitivity syndrome (HSS) usually refers to severe drug eruption associated with systemic symptoms and eosinophilia. Interleukin (IL)-5 regulates eosinophil counts with the help of IL-3 and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). Blood IL-5 levels have been reported to be increased in patients with eosinophilia secondary to parasitic infections or idiopathic eosinophilia, but have never been evaluated in drug-induced eosinophilia. The aim of our study was to determine whether IL-5, IL-3 and GM-CSF are involved in eosinophilia in patients with drug-induced HSS. Plasma levels of IL-3, IL-5 and GM-CSF were assayed by ELISA in seven patients with drug-induced HSS, in eight patients with cutaneous adverse drug reactions not associated with eosinophilia, and in five patients with eosinophilia unrelated to drug treatment. IL-5 levels were normal in all eight patients with drug eruptions without eosinophilia, and increased in five of the seven patients with HSS. In the latter patients, IL-5 levels peaked several days before highest eosinophil counts were noted, and returned to normal within a few days, even when eosinophilia persisted. In patients with eosinophilia unrelated to drug treatment, IL-5 levels, although significantly increased remained lower than in HSS patients. IL-3 and GM-CSF could not be detected in any group, at any time. Our results show that IL-5 is involved in drug-related eosinophilia. As IL-5 production was only involved in the early stages of the reaction, it is suggested that IL-5 mainly derives from activated lymphocytes rather than eosinophils. Our results support the clinical relevance of previous in vitro findings. Further studies are needed to test whether assays of IL-5 production by lymphocytes of patients stimulated by the suspected drug and/or its metabolites, are useful in establishing causality in drug-induced reactions associated with eosinophilia.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / metabolism*
  • Eosinophilia / etiology*
  • Eosinophilia / metabolism
  • Female
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-3 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-5 / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Interleukin-3
  • Interleukin-5
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor