In vitro lymphocyte blastogenic responses and cytokine production in sickle cell disease patients with acute pneumonia

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BackgroundPulmonary infections continue to be a major cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with sickle cell disease (SCD).MethodsIn this study cell-mediated immunity in vitro was evaluated in 62 SCD patients (62 steady state and 16 with acute pneumonia) and compared with 44 normal controls (30 healthy and 14 with acute pneumonia). Lymphocyte blastogenic responses to phytohemagglutinin, tetanus toxoid and Candida albicans antigen were assessed in all subjects. In addition production of tumor necrosis factor, alpha- and gamma-interferon (IFN) were assayed.ResultsThe results revealed comparable blastogenic responses to all three stimuli in all subjects except SCD patients with pneumonia. This group showed poor responses to all stimuli. The mean counts per minute were decreased 65 to 90% when compared with the other patients. Cytokine production of IFN-alpha and TNF was equivalent in all subjects. Conversely IFN-gamma production in both SCD groups, steady state (35 ± 6 U/ml) and SCD with pneumonia (14 ± 6 U/ml), was significantly decreased when compared with those in normal healthy controls (65 ± 14 U/ml) and with pneumonia (48 ± 17 U/ml). On analysis of individual titers 15 of 62 (24%) steady state and 10 of 16 (63%) SCD patients with pneumonia were deficient in IFN-gamma production in vitro.ConclusionsAcute pulmonary infections seem to have a profound effect on cell-mediated immunity in SCD. IFN-gamma deficiency, along with quantitative and qualitative T cell abnormalities, may represent significant factors to explain the frequent and severe infections seen in SCD.

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