Eosinophilic bronchitis is a recently described condition inpatients with chronic cough, sputum eosinophilia, normal spirometry and no evidence of bronchial hype rreactivity. The aim of the study was to assess the causes of chronic cough and to identify the prevalence of eosinophilic bronchitis as a cause of chronic cough. Thirty-six patients [mean age 45.4 +/- 14.3 years (range 16-69 years), M/F 4/32] with an isolated chronic cough lasting for more than 4 weeks were recruited from the outpatient clinic. In all patients, after a full history and physical examination, blood eosinophil count, eosinophilic cationic protein (ECP), serum total and specific IgE levels were measured. Spirometry, methacholine provocation test, skin prick tests, ear, nose and throat examination, induction of sputum and esophageal pH testing were performed. The mean duration of cough was 31.3 +/- 52.3 months. Sputum eosinophilia greater than 3% was present in 12 (33.3%) patients and they were diagnosed as eosinophilic bronchitis. Their induced sputum had a mean eosinophil count of 8.3% and a mean ECP level of 98.5 mg. l(-1), which were higher than the others (P=0.003, both), The diagnosis of the remaining patients were postnasal drip syndrome in eight, gastroesophageal reflux disease in eight, post-infectious cough in two and cough-variant asthma in one patient. In conclusion, eosinophilic bronchitis is an important cause of chronic cough and should be considered in the assessment of patients before regarding them as having idiopathic chronic cough. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.