Recruitment of eosinophils has long been recognized as a hallmark of the inflammatory response in asthma. However, the functions of this population of cells in host defense remain poorly understood. Eosinophils play an important part in the inflammatory response and have key regulatory roles in the afferent arm of the immune response. More recently, eosinophils have been demonstrated to participate in host defense against respiratory viruses. The specific contributions of eosinophils to the pathophysiology of asthma remain controversial. However, the balance of evidence indicates that they have a significant role in the disease, suggesting that they may be appropriate targets for therapy. Towards this end, a novel intervention of considerable potential interest is the use of an antibody directed against the β-common chain of the receptor for interleukin- 3, interleukin-5 and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor. However, eliminating eosinophils may not be a risk-free therapeutic strategy, as there is potentially an increased likelihood of respiratory viral infections. This may predispose to the development of acute exacerbations of asthma, an outcome that would have significant clinical implications.
Keywords: Asthma, eosinophils, antiviral defense, interleukin-5 receptor, beta-common subunit
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