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Diagnosis of eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) requires manual quantification of tissue eosinophils. Eosinophil peroxidase (EPX) is an eosinophil-specific, cytoplasmic granule protein released during degranulation. The objective of this study was to evaluate image analysis of EPX immunohistochemistry as an automated method for histologic diagnosis of EoE. We performed a secondary analysis of prospectively collected esophageal biopsies obtained from adult subjects with EoE and controls. Tissue sections were stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) and evaluated for peak eosinophils per high power field (eos/hpf). The same slides were de-stained and re-stained to detect EPX for direct comparison. Slides were digitized, and EPX staining area/mm2 was quantified using image analysis. Paired samples were compared for changes in EPX staining in treatment responders and non-responders. Thirty-eight EoE cases and 49 controls were analyzed. Among EoE subjects, matched post-treatment biopsies were available for 21 responders and 10 non-responders. Baseline EPX/mm2 was significantly increased in EoE subjects and decreased in treatment responders. EPX quantification correlated strongly with eos/hpf (r = 0.84, p < 0.0001) and identified EoE subjects with high diagnostic accuracy (AUC 0.95, p < 0.0001). The optimal diagnostic EPX-positive pixel/area threshold was 17,379 EPX/mm2. Several controls (5/49) with < 15 eos/hpf on H&E staining exceeded this cutoff. EPX/mm2 correlates strongly with eos/hpf, accurately identifies subjects with EoE, and decreases in treatment responders. Automated quantification of intact eosinophils and their degranulation products may enhance pathologic assessment. Future studies are needed to correlate EPX/mm2 with symptoms, endoscopic findings, and esophageal distensibility.


Benjamin L Wright, Alfred D Doyle, Kelly P Shim, Rish K Pai, Suzanne M Barshow, Jennifer L Horsley-Silva, Huijun Luo, Matthew A Rank, Elizabeth A Jacobsen, David A Katzka, Hirohito Kita, Evan S Dellon. Image Analysis of Eosinophil Peroxidase Immunohistochemistry for Diagnosis of Eosinophilic Esophagitis. Digestive diseases and sciences. 2021 Mar;66(3):775-783

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PMID: 32248390

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