Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) is a chronic disorder of the digestive system in which large numbers of a particular type of white blood cell called eosinophils are present in the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. Eosinophils are part of the immune system and play a role in immune regulation and fighting certain infection, and their accumulation is a hallmark of allergic diseases. This condition is characterized by vomiting, stomach or chest pain, failure to thrive (particularly in children), difficulty swallowing, and food getting stuck in the throat.
The symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis are variable, especially in people of different ages. Common symptoms include difficulty swallowing (dysphagia); food getting stuck in the throat (impaction); nausea; vomiting; poor growth; weight loss; stomach pain; poor appetite; and malnutrition. Because of an overlap of these symptoms with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), many patients are initially thought to have GERD, but EoE patients do not typically respond to anti-GERD therapy and can be found not to have GERD upon diagnostic workup. Recently, it has been appreciated that some patients with pronounced esophageal eosinophilia can have complete responses to proton pump inhibitor (PPI) therapy, typically used for the treatment of GERD, but these patients with PPI responsive esophageal eosinophilia (PPI-REE) do not typically have GERD but rather a disease variant similar to EoE; the PPI appears to exert its effects by direct action rather than blockade of stomach acid alone. Because PPI responsive esophageal eosinophilia has largely overlapping clinical, histological and molecular characteristics with PPI-resistent esophageal eosinophilia, but entities are referred to as EoE and usage of PPIs is now considered a treatment of EoE. Individuals with eosinophilic esophagitis often have allergic diseases such as asthma or eczema.
The frequency of eosinophilic esophagitis has been estimated to be approximately 1 in 2,000 individuals. This condition has been reported in multiple continents including Europe, Australia, and America.
Many children and adults with EoE show improvement with proton pump inhibitor therapy, as well diet modification so that allergenic food is removed, most commonly milk, egg, soy, wheat, nuts and fish. Some affected individuals require a liquid formula diet fed through a feeding tube. Steroid medications are often used to control inflammation if dietary changes alone are not sufficient. Additional endoscopies and biopsies are usually necessary to monitor the effectiveness of treatment.
Research is underway to develop medications to block the proteins produced as a result of the EoE transcriptome and the tissue inflammation. Companies involved in this research include GlaxoSmithKline, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Celgene, Regeneron, Shire, AstraZeneca and Allakos. The role of inflammation in EoE is well characterised which leads to an opportunity of a specific orally delivered topical formulation of JEL0802 as a breakthrough therapy in EoE.
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