In recent years, eosinophil cationic protein (ECP) has been considered as a useful eosinophilic activation marker in asthmatic patients. In this study, serum ECP levels in different stages of bronchial asthma were evaluated. We studied 123 patients suffering from asthma, which was classified as mild (n = 49), moderate (n = 49), severe asthma (n = 25), and also 31 healthy controls. Serum ECP levels were 13.22 ± 1.11 ng/mL (mean ± s.e.m.) in controls, and 30.15 ± 2.38 ng/mL in asthmatic patients. By subgroups, ECP levels were 24.23 ± 3.37 ng/mL, 31.69 ± 4.21 ng/mL and 37.61 ± 4.52 ng/mL, in mild, moderate and severe asthmatic patients, respectively, being the differences among the three groups statistically significant (P < 0.0l–P < 0.001). Peripheral blood eosinophil numbers were 157 ± 20 eos/mm3 in controls, and 334 ± 35 eos/mm3, 510 ± 87 eos/mm3, and 658 ± 72 eos/mm3, in mild, moderate, and severe asthmatic patients, respectively, with significant differences among all groups (P < 0.05–P < 0.001). The serum ECP levels as well as the eosinophil numbers were higher in symptomatic patients than in the asymptomatic ones (P < 0.001). Moderate negative correlations, although highly significant (P ≤ 0.001), were found between serum ECP levels and forced vital capacity (FVC) (rs = −0.27), FEV1, MEF25–75 (rs = −0.31), and MEF50 (rs = −0.32). There was also a good positive correlation between ECP levels and peripheral blood eosinophil numbers (rs = 0.67, P < 0.001).
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