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Am J Surg. 1999 Oct;178(4):288-92.

Selective defects of T lymphocyte function in patients with lethal intraabdominal infection.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Klinikum rechts der Isar, Technische Universit├Ąt, Munich, Germany.



In recent models, compensatory antiinflammatory immune reactions triggered in response to systemic inflammation were considered important for the outcome of sepsis. The present study investigated T-cell functions in patients with postoperative sepsis due to intra-abdominal infection.


Peripheral T cells were purified from 32 sepsis patients and 41 healthy controls. Proliferation and production of interferon (IFN)-gamma, interleukin (IL)-2, IL-4, tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and IL-10 were stimulated by cross-linking of CD3 and CD28.


T-cell proliferation and production of IL-2 and TNF were severely suppressed in patients with lethal intraabdominal infection as compared with survivors and healthy controls. Sepsis survivors showed normal T-cell proliferation and IL-2 release, whereas secretion of TNF was reduced. However, TNF suppression in survivors was less severe than in nonsurviving patients. Defective T-cell functions were observed at the onset of sepsis and persisted throughout the entire observation period. T-cell production of IL-4 and IL-10 was not affected by postoperative intraabdominal infection.


Defective T-cell proliferation and secretion of IL-2 and TNF correlate with sepsis mortality, thus indicating an important role of T 'cells for the immune defense against postoperative infection. Immune defects were evident at the onset of sepsis, suggesting that immunosuppression may develop as a primary response to sepsis without preceding immune hyperactivity.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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