Black Children With EoE May Present With More Severe Symptoms

Liam Davenport

July 20, 2022

Black children with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) are more likely to present with atopic comorbidities and failure to thrive and are less likely to adhere to therapy than non-Black children, suggests the largest study to date to compare the two groups.

According to the researchers, Black children were more likely to have food allergies, atopic dermatitis, asthma, and allergic rhinitis. Additionally, failure to thrive at presentation was more than twice as common among Black patients, whereas non-Black patients were around three times as likely to present with abdominal pain.

While there were no significant differences in the rates of remission on medical therapy between the two groups, Black patients were substantially more likely to be nonadherent to regimens than their non-Black counterparts.

"Overall, there were some important differences between our two cohorts suggesting Black patients may present with more severe symptoms or have issues with access to care," said lead researcher Sofia Edwards-Salmon, MD, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, and colleagues.

The findings were published online in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition.

An Increasingly Common Condition

According the authors, EoE is an increasingly common chronic, immune-related condition characterized by eosinophilic infiltration of the esophagus, causing regurgitation, dysphasia, feeding difficulties, and vomiting. Atopic comorbidities accompany the disease in around 75% of patients.

While the pathogenesis of EoE is not fully understood, males are predominately affected (male-to-female ratio of 3:1), and 85% to 90% of cases occur in White people.

The authors note that recent smaller studies have suggested that Black children are affected by EoE to a greater degree than previously thought, raising questions over the clinical care of Black individuals.

To investigate further, they conducted a retrospective chart review of patients aged 1–17 years who were diagnosed with EoE. The researchers identified eligible Black patients, and then identified a sample of non-Black patients who were matched by age and sex. In all, 143 Black children and 142 non-Black children were included. The median age at diagnosis was 5.1 years and 6.7 years, respectively. More than twice as many Black children than non-Black children had public health insurance (66.2% vs 30.7%).

The authors found that non-Black children were significantly more likely to present with abdominal pain (33.1% vs 11.2%), while Black children were more likely to present with failure to thrive/poor growth (32.2% vs 12.7%).

In regard to endoscopic findings, Black children were more likely to have strictures (3.5% vs 0%), but no other significant differences were found. The two groups underwent a similar number of esophagogastroduodenoscopies during follow-up (mean number of procedures, four among Black patients, vs three among non-Black patients).

Additionally, atopic comorbidities were more common among Black children than non-Black children: food allergies (52.4% vs 35.9%), atopic dermatitis (50.3% vs 27.5%), asthma (47.7% vs 28.9%), and allergic rhinitis (40.6% vs 23.9%). A family history of atopy was recorded for 65% of Black patients, vs 47.2% of non-Black patients.

Notably, the authors found no overall significant differences in the therapies used for Black and non-Black patients. There also was no significant difference in the proportion of patients who achieved remission at some point (58.7% of Black patients, vs 66.2% of non-Black patients). However, nonadherence to medical therapy was significantly more prevalent among Black patients (33.6% vs 10.9%).

Similar proportions were lost to follow-up (46.9% of Black patients, vs 43.6% of non-Black patients).

Raising Awareness

Edwards-Salmon told Medscape Medical News that while there are many potential reasons for the differences, the most likely would be access to care and/or socioeconomic differences.

She explained that their biggest hope in publishing the results of their study is to increase physician awareness of EoE in the Black pediatric population and how its presentation may differ. The aim is to achieve earlier treatment and earlier remission and therefore better outcomes, she added.

Edwards-Salmon suggested that adherence could be improved by including patient surveys on medication access and affordability, as well as having information regarding a parent or guardian's daily schedule, which would enable providers to come up with a plan on how to most easily supervise medication.

Reached for comment, Vincent A. Mukkada, MD, associate professor, UC Department of Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, said it was "interesting that they are not seeing major differences in treatment response between the Black population compared to their other patients."

He told Medscape Medical News that, in contrast, "we and other groups have seen that some of these patients, particularly the very young ones with multiple atopic diseases, have been very challenging to treat effectively."

Mukkada, who was not involved in the study, said that while he agrees that socioeconomics and access to care play major roles in the differences seen, he would hesitate to jump to the conclusion that these are the sole or dominant forces.

"In fact, the increased prevalence of other atopic diseases and failure to thrive in the Black cohort might just as well be due to a biologic difference in atopic predisposition, or perhaps the greater proportion of patients with failure to thrive might be secondary to their increased atopic burden," he said.

Mukkada added that it would have been interesting to have seen other objective markers, such as blood counts, to see whether peripheral eosinophilia, for instance, was increased among the Black patients. In addition, it would be interesting to look at gene expression profiles.

The study was funded by the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Butcher Resident Research Award and Emory School of Medicine Research Training in Translational GI and Liver. Edwards-Salmon and Mukkada report no relevant financial relationships.

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. Published online July 6, 2022. Abstract

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