Immunosuppression, eotaxin and the diagnostic changes in eosinophils that precede early acute heart allograft rejection

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Peripheral blood eosinophil counts (EOS) are undetectable in 40% blood samples sent for routine haematology at Papworth Hospital during the first 3 months after heart transplantation (HTx). Increases in EOS usually precede the development of allograft rejection by a median of 4 days. We compared the effects of cyclosporin (dose and total blood concentration), prednisolone (dose and both total and unbound plasma concentrations) and azathioprine, as well as plasma concentrations of the CCR-3 chemokines, eotaxin and RANTES, on changes in EOS in 47 consecutive HTx recipients, with a median follow-up of 90 (IQR 85-95) days. Multivariate analysis confirmed the independent association between both prednisolone dose (P < 0.0001) and eotaxin (P < 0.0001) and changes in EOS. The plasma eotaxin concentration was, in turn, most closely associated with the cyclosporin dose (P < 0.001) and plasma prednisolone concentration (P = 0.022). The blood cyclosporin concentration (P = 0.028), EOS (P = 0.012) and prednisolone dose (P = 0.015) were all independently associated with the risk of treated acute rejection. When prednisolone pharmacokinetic parameters were substituted for the prednisolone dose in this multivariate model, only the pharmacokinetic parameter retained a significant association with the risk of rejection. Changes in EOS preceding cardiac allograft rejection are directly associated with plasma eotaxin concentrations and indirectly with prednisolone dosage. Cyclosporin may also indirectly influence these changes by inhibiting eotaxin production. EOS, prednisolone dose and blood cyclosporin concentrations were independently associated with the risk of acute rejection. The total and unbound fractions of prednisolone in plasma appear to be even more closely related to rejection but are difficult to measure. Monitoring EOS, as a surrogate measure of prednisolone immunosuppression, may be more cost-effective for controlling rejection than conventional cyclosporin monitoring in the first 6 weeks after HTx. © 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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Transplant Immunology