Newsflash Articles: Untreated Eosinophilic Esophagitis Worsens and the Severely-Damaged Esophagus Does Not Work Well

NC Chang et al. Clin Gastroentol Hepatol 2022; 20: 1701-1708. Open Access! A Gap in Care Leads to Progression of Fibrosis in Eosinophilic Esophagitis Patients

In this retrospective review with 701 patients, 95 (14%) had a gap in care (mean time without care, 4.8 ± 2.3 years). Key findings:

  • Patients post-gap had higher endoscopic severity (2.4 vs 1.5; P < .001) and smaller esophageal diameters (11.0 vs 12.7 mm; P = .04).
  • Strictures were more prevalent with longer gap time (P < .05 for trend). Each additional year of gap time increased odds of stricture by 26%, even after accounting for pre-gap dilation. Additionally, of 67 patients without pre-gap fibrosis, 25 (37%) had at least one fibrotic feature (stricture, narrowing, or requiring dilation) post-gap.

DA Carlson et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2022; 20: 1719-1728. Esophageal Dysmotility Is Associated With Disease Severity in Eosinophilic Esophagitis

Consecutive adult patients with EoE (n=199) completed a 16-cm functional luminal imaging probe (FLIP) during endoscopy were evaluated in a cross-sectional study. Key findings:

  • Mucosal eosinophil density was similar between abnormal contractile responses (CRs) and normal CRs (median 34 vs 25)
  • Abnormal CRs more frequently had reduced esophageal distensibility (distensibility plateau <17 mm in 56% vs 32%), with more severe ring scores, and a greater duration of symptoms (median, 10 y vs 7 y)

Thus, abnormal esophageal CRs were related to EoE disease severity, especially features of fibrostenosis. This study suggests that esophageal wall remodeling, rather than eosinophilic inflammatory intensity, was associated with esophageal dysmotility in EoE.

My take: Despite my satirical title, I think these articles are helpful by documenting that ongoing EoE results in worsening esophageal dysfunction/dysmotility (especially if not treated). In addition, they provide insight into the natural history/pathophysiology of EoE.

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Near Seward, AK. Sea lions and birds flock to this island

How Useful Are 3-site Esophageal Biopsies for Eosinophilic Esophagitis

JB Wechsler et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2022; 20: 1971-1976. Defining the Patchy Landscape of Esophageal Eosinophilia in Children With Eosinophilic Esophagitis

Design: The authors prospectively obtained 3-site esophageal biopsies based on rigorous endoscopic measurements of the proximal, mid, and distal esophagus and gastroesophageal junction. Biopsies were reviewed by a pathologist, and those with at least 15 eosinophils per high-power field were considered active EoE.  

Key findings:

  • 304 endoscopies in 167 patients had active EoE. The entire cohort was 217 patients (n=596 endoscopies)
  • Among the 304 endoscopies with active EoE, 9 had focal eosinophilia restricted to the mid esophagus, and 8 were restricted to the proximal esophagus
  • Distal + proximal biopsies had the highest diagnostic sensitivity for a 2-site combination (~98% sensitivity)

Based on this study, the authors recommend “3-site biopsies for optimal disease assessment of active EoE in children.”

My take: I think recommendations to add more and more biopsies is premature until we have evidence that identifying “focal” inflammation in the mid-esophagus has some clinical usefulness/improves outcomes. To me, a 2% increase in sensitivity over 2-site biopsies is negligible & in all likelihood, a 4-site biopsy protocol would increase the yield even further.

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Stream near Byron Glacier

Eat More Chicken? (for EoE)

JB Wechsler et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2022; 20: 1748-1756. A Single-Food Milk Elimination Diet Is Effective for Treatment of Eosinophilic Esophagitis in Children

Design: A prospective observational single-center study in 41 children with EoE treated with the 1-food elimination diet (1FED). Upper endoscopy with biopsies was performed after 8 to 12 weeks of treatment. The primary end point was histologic remission, defined as fewer than 15 eosinophils per high-power field.

Key findings:

  • Histologic remission occurred in 21 (51%) children, with a decrease in peak eosinophils per high-power field from a median of 50
  • Endoscopic abnormalities improved in 24 (59%) patients, while symptoms improved in 25 (61%). Improved symptoms included chest pain, dysphagia, and pocketing/spitting out food
  • Interestingly, in terms of all symptom resolution, this was higher in the group of nonresponders 8 (40%) than in the responders 4 (19%)
  • Younger patients (mean 7 yrs vs 12 yrs) and patients with IgE-mediated food allergies tended to be more likely to fail dairy elimination in this study
  • One key caveat is that most patients continued PPI during study; thus it is unknown if stopping a PPI before starting dairy elimination would have changed treatment response. 90% of patients were receiving PPIs at enrollment

My take: This study should prompt more widespread use of dairy elimination as a first line treatment prior to consideration of medications for long-term treatment. This study also reinforces the concept that symptom improvement remains an inadequate indicator of response. Perhaps, Chick-Fil-A marketing needs to be used for our EoE patients to shun cows (cow’s milk in this case).

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Kenai Fjords National Park, near Seward Alaska

Long-Term Treatment of Eosinophilic Esophagitis with Budesonide

ES Dellon et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2022; 1488-1498. Open access: Long-Term Treatment of Eosinophilic Esophagitis With Budesonide Oral Suspension

Methods: 48 patients who had fully responded to a 12-week induction course of budesonide 2 mg BID oral suspension were randomized to continuation of therapy or to placebo, for 36 weeks.

Key findings:

  • Patients randomized to placebo experienced relapse at a numerically higher rate than those who continued budesonide (43.5% vs 24.0%; p=.13). This reached statistical significance in a per-protocol analysis
  • In a separate arm, 13% of the 106 patients with previous partial or no response did subsequently fully respond to budesonide
  • Budesonide therapy was well-tolerated; candidiasis-related events occurred in 17 patients overall and were mild to moderate, and abnormal adrenocorticotropic hormone stimulation tests were reported in 5%

My take: Most patients who respond to induction with budesonide will continue to respond to ongoing treatment. A high rate of relapse is seen in those randomized to placebo.

Related blog posts:

I-SEE for Eosinophilic Esophagitis

ES Dellon et al Gastroenterol 2022; DOI: Open Access: A Clinical Severity Index for Eosinophilic Esophagitis: Development, Consensus, and Future Directions “The Index of Severity for Eosinophilic Esophagitis (I-SEE)—that can be completed at routine clinic visits to assess disease severity using a point scale of 0–6 for mild, 7–14 for moderate, and ≥15 for severe EoE.”

From AGA: Eosinophilic Esophagitis Index

“The Index of Severity for EoE (I-SEE) is now available for you to use as a tool to help assess EoE patients. Developed by a multidisciplinary team of experts, the new tool is now published in Gastroenterology.

Details about I-SEE 

  • “The I-SEE has three domains: (1) symptoms and complications, (2) inflammatory features and (3) fibrostenotic.
  • I-SEE can be used at initial diagnosis and then at each subsequent visit, with the recall being only between visits so that the severity can be assessed over time and ultimately (when data supports this step) treatment and monitoring adjusted based on severity.
  • As the number of children and adults with EoE increases worldwide, a simple system to assess and track disease activity in a meaningful way in a clinical setting is needed.
  • I-SEE is for use in adult and pediatric patients with EoE. It was created by an international team of more than 30 experts in allergy, gastroenterology and pathology.”

Link: I-SEE Tool Scoring Table

Two Studies for Eosinophiles

ES Dellon et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2022; 20: 535-545. Open Access: Determination of Biopsy Yield That Optimally Detects Eosinophilic Gastritis and/or Duodenitis in a Randomized Trial of Lirentelimab

Key findings:

  • GI eosinophilia was patchy and that examination of multiple biopsies was required for diagnosis—an average of only 2.6 per 8 gastric biopsies and 2.2 per 4 duodenal biopsies per subject met thresholds for EG/EoD.
  • Evaluation of multiple nonoverlapping hpfs in each of 8 gastric and 4 duodenal biopsies was required to capture 100% of EG/EoD cases.

The 2nd article’s abstract was posted on this blog in July 2020 (Phase 3 Trial of Budesonide for Eosinophilic Esophagitis). Here is the published citation and graphical abstract:

I Hirano et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2022; 20: 525-534. Open Access: Budesonide Oral Suspension Improves Outcomes in Patients With Eosinophilic Esophagitis: Results from a Phase 3 Trial

Maintenance Topical Steroid Dosing for Eosinophilic Esophagitis

T Greuter et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2021; 19: 2514-2523. Open Access: Effectiveness and Safety of High- vs Low-Dose Swallowed Topical Steroids for Maintenance Treatment of Eosinophilic Esophagitis: A Multicenter Observational Study

In this multicenter, retrospective study with 82 participants (mean age 37 years), the authors examined swallowed topical corticosteroids (STC) for maintenance of histologic remission (<15 eos/hpf). Low dose STC (22 budesonide, 60 fluticasone) was considered 0.5 mg/day or less. Key findings:

  • Histological relapse occurred in 67% of patients. This rate was comparable in patients treated with low-dose (72%) and high-dose (54%) STCs.
  • Histological relapse occurred significantly earlier with low dose STC (1.0 vs 1.8 years, P = .030)
  • Esophageal candidiasis was identified in 6% of subjects

The authors conclude that most of the histological relapse that occurred was due to true steroid failure since “low adherence and treatment cessation during follow-up were exclusion criteria.” Also, they note that “the recently finished but not yet fully published Maintenance of Remission With Budesonide Orodispersible Tablets vs Placebo in Eosinophilic Eosphagitis (EOS2 trial) (NCT02493335) comparing budesonide maintenance doses of 2 mg/d vs 1 mg/d suggest that there is no additional benefit of daily doses higher than 1 mg (1-year remission rates of 75.0% and 73.5%, respectively).

My take: Low dose STCs do not appear to be as effective in maintaining histologic remission; however, there is a high rate of relapse even in those with higher doses.

Related blog posts:

Kaplan Meier curve for time to histological relapse in patients with deep
histological remission at baseline stratified by steroid dose groups

Genetic Basis of Eosinophilic Esophagitis

Cincinnati Children’s Research Horizons: Two Genes Associated with Familial EoE

Researchers (first author Tetsuo Shodaand senior author Marc Rothenberg) at “Cincinnati Children’s have identified two rare gene variants associated with inherited forms of eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) that may also play roles as acquired mutations among the larger population of people with non-familial EoE.”  

Citation of article: Shoda, T., Kaufman, K.M., Wen, T. et al. Desmoplakin and periplakin genetically and functionally contribute to eosinophilic esophagitis. Nat Commun 12, 6795 (2021).

The findings regarding the genes desmoplakin (DSP) and periplakin (PPL) were published Nov. 23, 2021 in Nature Communications (Link to article: Desmoplakin and periplakin genetically and functionally contribute to eosinophilic esophagitis). “The proteins generated by these genes are found in the epithelial layer of the esophagus amid structures called desmosomes that help bind cells together. These variants of DSP and PPL appear to weaken the epithelial barrier, making the tissue more prone to damage from inflammation-causing eosinophils.”

Methods: Using whole-genome sequencing, the researchers discovered the variants among five members of a family that had multiple generations of members with EoE.  The team tested another 61 families with familial EoE and found 13 having either the DSP or PPL variants.

Key Findings:

  • The authors “estimate that these gene variants account for about 21% of patients with familial EoE”
  • “A series of functional analyses using an organotypic-like ALI culture system demonstrated that modulating wild-type DSP and PPL expression in vitro was functionally sufficient to induce changes in epithelial integrity (e.g., acantholysis) and barrier impairment, processes that are dysregulated in EoE”
  • DSP and PPL loss occurs in non-familial EoE, substantiating that the pathway identified initially by rare familial EoE cases is broadly applicable to familial and non-familial EoE”

My take:

  1. This article provides data showing that genetic alterations affecting the epithelial barrier are important in the pathophysiology of EoE.
  2. Often EoE is compared to eczema. This finding of altered epithelial barrier is analogous to eczema where many cases are due to a mutation in a protein called filaggrin, which is important in reducing the gap between skin cells (related blog: Eczema Rarely Linked to Food Allergy).

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Frequency of Strictures in Pediatric Eosinophilic Esophagitis

D Burnett et al. JPGN Reports 2021; Free Access: Incidence of Pediatric Eosinophilic Esophagitis and Characterization of the Stricturing Phenotype in Alberta, Canada doi: 10.1097/PG9.0000000000000136

This retrospective study (2015-2018) identified 185 new cases of eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE).

Key findings:

  • Eight of 185 (4%) patients had endoscopically confirmed esophageal strictures, 4 of which required mechanical dilation. (The authors note a Dutch study which demonstrated a 14% stricture rate)
  • Eleven of 185 (5.9%) patients had more subtle signs of esophageal narrowing, but no focal strictures
  • Pain was reported after 15% of all scopes, including 50% of the 28 scopes with focal strictures
  • For patients <15 years old living in Edmonton, the incidence over the 4 years was 11.1 cases per 100,000 person years
  • EoE was more common in urban setting: incidence 10.6 versus 4.1 per 100,000 person-years, respectively

My take: This article provides useful data on the likelihood of stricturing EoE in the pediatric population in an area with a high incidence of EoE.

Related blog posts:

“Esophageal Hypervigilance” and Outcomes in Eosinophilic Esophagitis

TH Taft et al. Gastroenterol 2021; 161: 1133-1144. Open Access: Esophageal Hypervigilance and Symptom-Specific Anxiety in Patients with Eosinophilic Esophagitis

Commentary: RD Naik, DA Patel. Gastroenterol 2021; 161: 1099-1110. Open Access: Unlocking the Mind Might Be Critical in Management of Eosinophilic Esophagitis: Expanding Beyond Drugs, Dilation, and Diet

Taft et al performed a retrospective study of 103 adult patients with eosinophilic esophagitis. Patients completed the following questionnaires immediately before to endoscopy:

  • Esophageal Hypervigilance and Anxiety Scale (EHAS)
  • Brief Esophageal Dysphagia Questionnaire (BEDQ)
  • Eosinophilic Esophagitis Symptom Activity Index (EEsAI)
  • Northwestern Esophageal Quality of Life Scale (NEQOL).

Endoscopic severity of EoE was graded using the EoE Endoscopic Reference Score System (EREFS). Dysphagia was the primary symptom in 73% of the patients.

Key findings:

  • Patient’s symptom severity (via EEsAI or BEDQ) did not correlate with histology (distal or proximal peak eosinophil count), endoscopic severity of the disease (EREFS), or the distensibility index (measured via functional lumen imaging probe)
  • Symptom severity was correlated with the Esophageal Hypervigilance and Anxiety Scale (EHAS)
  • There was no correlation between EHAS and histologic activity, endoscopic severity (EREFS), or the presence of a stricture

The associated commentary emphasizes some of the study limitations including taking surveys prior to endoscopy (increased anxiety).

My take: This study indicates that with eosinophilic esophagitis, similar to other organic diseases (eg. IBD), patient symptoms do not always correlate with disease severity, and addressing the impact of anxiety and hypervigilance is critical, especially in refractory symptoms.

Figure 1 from commentary