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Gastrointestinal Manifestations of Hypereosinophilic Syndromes and Mast Cell Disorders: a Comprehensive Review

Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology
Vivian C. Nanagas, Anna Kovalszki


Hypereosinophilic syndrome and mastocytosis are relatively rare proliferative diseases encountered in the general population. However, allergists frequently consider these disorders in the differential of patients presenting with gastrointestinal, pulmonary, cutaneous, and allergic symptoms. Gastrointestinal symptoms are some of the most frequent and/or debilitating aspects of both disease states and in many cases lead to poor quality of life and functional limitation for the patient. They are the third most common clinical manifestation in hypereosinophilic syndrome and have been found to be the most distressful aspect of the disorder in those with systemic mastocytosis. Both eosinophils and mast cells play integral parts in normal gut physiology, but when and how exactly their effector functionality translates into clinically significant disease remains unclear, and the available literature regarding their pathophysiology remains sparse. Eosinophils and mast cells even, in fact, may not necessarily function in isolation from each other but can participate in bidirectional crosstalk. Both are affected by similar mediators and can also influence one another in a paracrine fashion. Their interactions include both production of soluble mediators for specific eosinophil and mast cell receptors (for example, eosinophil recruitment and activation by mast cells releasing histamine and eotaxin) as well as direct physical contact. The mechanistic relationship between clonal forms of hypereosinophilia and systemic mastocytosis has also been explored. The nature of gastrointestinal symptomatology in the setting of both hypereosinophilic syndrome and mast cell disease is frequently manifold, heterogeneous, and the lack of better targeted therapy makes diagnosis and management challenging, especially when faced with a substantial differential. Currently, the management of these gastrointestinal symptoms relies on the treatment of the overall disease process. In hypereosinophilia patients, systemic corticosteroids are mainstay, although steroid-sparing agents such as hydroxyurea, IFN-α, methotrexate, cyclosporine, imatinib, and mepolizumab have been utilized with varying success. In mastocytosis patients, anti-mediator therapy with antihistamines and mast cell stabilization with cromolyn sodium can be considered treatments of choice, followed by other therapies yet to be thoroughly studied, including the role of the low-histamine diet, corticosteroids, and treatment of associated IBS symptoms. Given that both eosinophils and mast cells may have joint pathophysiologic roles, they have the potential to be a combined target for therapeutic intervention in disease states exhibiting eosinophil or mast cell involvement.

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