Eosinophilic esophagitis: A culprit in misdiagnosed chronic allergic diseases

March 14, 2006

A team of researchers has declared a condition known as eosinophilic esophagitis (EE) as an emerging health concern for children that could cause a host of lifelong problems. This severe, chronic condition has often been misdiagnosed and has been recognized increasingly in the US, Europe, Canada, and Japan in the past few years.

A team of researchers has declared a condition known as eosinophilic esophagitis (EE) as an emerging health concern for children that could cause a host of lifelong problems. This severe, chronic condition has often been misdiagnosed and has been recognized increasingly in the US, Europe, Canada, and Japan in the past few years.

The scientists involved in the study report that a highly specific subset of human genes plays a role in EE, in which the esophagus becomes inflamed—often, but not always, because of an allergic reaction to food. The inflammation causes nausea, heartburn, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing. In an advanced case, a child may suffer malnutrition, often requiring a special liquid diet, and may need to have a feeding tube inserted.

EE has been often misdiagnosed because its symptoms are similar to those of acid reflux disease. Notwithstanding, EE and acid reflux disease differ in underlying pathophysiology. Available drugs for treating acid reflux do not ease the symptoms of EE, which is not caused by production of stomach acid but, likely, by inflammation of the esophagus resulting from abnormal accumulation of eosinophils.

Recognition of EE has increasingly greatly since the advent of diagnostic endoscopy. The work of the research team was funded in part by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The study was published in the February 2006 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.