Blood eosinophils as a marker of likely corticosteroid response in children with preschool wheeze: time for an eosinophil guided clinical trial?
Gaillard EA., McNamara PS., Murray CS., Pavord ID., Shields MD.
Childhood wheezing is common particularly in children under the age of 6 years and in this age group is generally referred to as preschool wheezing. Particular diagnostic and treatment uncertainties exist in these young children due to the difficulty in obtaining objective evidence of reversible airways narrowing and inflammation. A diagnosis of asthma depends on the presence of relevant clinical signs and symptoms and the demonstration of reversible airways narrowing on lung function testing, which is difficult to perform in young children. Few treatments are available and inhaled corticosteroids are the recommended preventer treatment in most international asthma guidelines. There is, however, considerable controversy about its effectiveness in children with preschool wheeze and a corticosteroid responder phenotype has not been established. These diagnostic and treatment uncertainties in conjunction with the knowledge of corticosteroid side effects, in particular the reduction of growth velocity, have resulted in a variable approach to inhaled corticosteroid prescribing by medical practitioners and a reluctance in carers to regularly administer the treatment. Identifying children who are likely responders to corticosteroid therapy would be a major benefit in the management of this condition. Eosinophils have emerged as a promising biomarker of corticosteroid responsive airways disease, and evaluation of this biomarker in sputum has successfully been employed to direct management in adults with asthma. Obtaining sputum from young children is time consuming and difficult, and it is hard to justify more invasive procedures such as a bronchoscopy in young children routinely. Recently, in children, interest has shifted to assessing the value of less invasive biomarkers of likely corticosteroid response and the biomarker 'blood eosinophils' has emerged as an attractive candidate. The aim of this review was to summarize the evidence for blood eosinophils as a predictive biomarker for corticosteroid responsive disease with a particular focus on the difficult area of preschool wheeze.