Veterinary Research Communications

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 11–44 | Cite as

Eosinophils: A review

  • B. J. McEwen


The eosinophil was discovered by Jones in 1846 (Dessein and David, 1982) but its proclivity to stain with aniline dyes was first described by Paul Ehrlich in 1879 (Hirsch and Hirsch, 1980). Recognized and named for this quality, eosinophils possess an abundance of highly basic proteins within their granules which confer their affinity for acidic dyes (Gleich and Loegering, 1984).

Eosinophils are traditionally viewed as killer-effector cells in parasitic infestations and as modulators of Type I hypersensitivity reactions (Butterworth and David, 1981; Kay, 1985). The eosinophils' reserve of cationic proteins and enzymes which imparts their profound parasiticidal effects (Butterworth and David, 1981) contrasts with this leukocyte's purported regulatory function in inflammation (Kay, 1985; Fechteret al., 1986). The opposing functions possessed by this leukocyte exemplify the enigma of the eosinophil. Recent evidence suggests that although the eosinophil does possess some regulatory capabilities, its presence is, in fact, a harbinger of tissue destruction (Gleich and Adolphoson, 1986, Wardlaw and Kay, 1987; Spry, 1988). Nor does the presence of the eosinophil automatically infer IgE mediated hypersensitivity, as evidenced by studies examining the interaction of the eosinophil with the cellular arm of the immune system (Basten and Beeson, 1970; Ruscettiet al., 1976; Beeson and Bass, 1977; Raghavacharet al., 1987; Ohnishiet al., 1988).

The purpose of this review is to provide a brief overview of the structure and biology of the mammalian eosinophil and to emphasize the fact that eosinophils fulfil a paradoxical role as effectors of tissue damage and as benign modulators of inflammation.


chemotaxis eosinophils function structure 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers bv 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. J. McEwen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Pathology, Ontario Veterinary CollegeUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada

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