Assessment of eosinophil cationic protein as a possible diagnostic marker for female genital schistosomiasis in women living in a Schistosoma haematobium endemic area

Midzi N, Ndhlovu PD, Nyanga L, Kjetland EF, Reimert CM, Vennervald BJ, Gomo E, Mudenge G, Friis H, Gundersen SG, Mduluza T

Journal title: Parasite immunology

Parasite Immunol. 2003 Nov-Dec;25(11-12):581-8

PMID: 15053779

Article on PubMed:


Eosinophil cationic protein (ECP) levels were measured in vaginal lavage extracts from 518 Zimbabwean reproductive women, age range 15-49 years, to assess the potential use of ECP as a diagnostic marker for female genital schistosomiasis (FGS). One hundred and fifty women had confirmed FGS status. These included 77 (cases) women who had ova in genital tissue and 73 (controls) women who had no ova in genital tissue. Participants were examined at baseline, 3 and 15 months post-treatment with praziquantel. ECP levels were determined using the enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ECP-ELISA). ECP levels from 18 Norwegian women were used to calculate the diagnostic values of the test. FGS was diagnosed from the study population using genital biopsy and smears. Women were also diagnosed for urinary schistosomiasis using the urine filtration technique. The prevalence of urinary schistosomiasis was 39 % at baseline and this declined to 8% and 6% at 3 and 15 month post-treatment surveys, respectively. There was a higher mean ECP level in women with FGS, 889.3 ng/mL (95% CI: 457.0-1327.5) compared to the endemic control group, 359.1 ng/mL (95%, CI: 227.3-490.9), P = 0.027. Mean ECP levels declined at 3 months following treatment of infected individuals. There was no correlation between ECP levels and tissue ova density, and urine egg intensity. The sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values for the ECP-ELISA test were 35%, 80%, 65% and 53%, respectively. Our results indicate that FGS causes an inflammatory immune response that increases ECP levels in genital fluid. Treatment of schistosomiasis results in a regression of pathology and a decline in ECP levels. However, other factors such as allergy and microbial infection could also be responsible for increased ECP levels in genital mucosa. These conditions will affect the validity of the test in diagnosis of FGS.