Interleukin 5 (IL-5) is a T cell-derived cytokine that acts as a potent and specific eosinophil differentiation factor in humans. During liver allograft rejection, intragraft IL-5 mRNA and eosinophilia have been observed. The objective of this study was to correlate the levels of IL-5 in bile and serum with eosinophilia and allograft rejection in paediatric liver recipients. IL-5 levels were determined by ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) in bile (n = 85) and serum (n = 106) and obtained prospectively from 15 patients during the first 3 weeks post-transplantation. Biliary and serum IL-5 levels were significantly elevated during allograft rejection compared to IL-5 levels when no rejection was apparent or during infectious complications. The highest IL-5 levels were measured in the bile during the early rejection period (3 days prior to biopsy-proven rejection). Fifteen of 16 rejection episodes were marked by increases in IL-5 as revealed by analysis of sequential samples from individual patients. In all patients with rejection, elevations in serum IL-5 were associated with elevations in peripheral eosinophil counts. These results indicate that IL-5 is produced in the liver and may be a useful and specific marker of allograft rejection. Furthermore, these findings provide further evidence for a pathway of liver allograft rejection mediated by IL-5 activated eosinophils.
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