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J Immunotoxicol. 2011 Oct-Dec;8(4):333-45. doi: 10.3109/1547691X.2011.615767. Epub 2011 Oct 20.

Dynamics of lymphocyte subsets in children living in an area polluted by polychlorinated biphenyls.

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  • 1Department of Immunology and Immunotoxicology, Bratislava, Slovakia.


Immune system development, particularly in the pre-natal and early post-natal periods, has far-reaching health consequences during childhood, as well as throughout life. Exposure to poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) during pre-natal and early life has been previously associated with changes in the incidence of infectious and allergic diseases in children, and humoral immunity alterations. Lymphocyte immunophenotyping is an important tool in the diagnosis of immunologic and hematologic disorders. This study used a lysed whole blood method for analysis of lymphocyte sub-populations in samples from children born and living in two districts: a highly-contaminated area (Michalovce) and one (Svidnik/Stropkov) with ≈ 2-fold lower environmental PCB levels. The percentages of B-lymphocytes (CD19(+)), activated HLADR(+)CD19(+) cells, and CD8(+) T-lymphocytes significantly increased at 6- and 16-months-of-age in both selected regions as compared to in cord blood values (p < 0.001). Levels of CD3(+) cells increased significantly (from 61 to 65%) in samples from Michalovce (p < 0.01). Levels of CD4(+) T-lymphocytes declined 10% among 16-month-olds in both regions (Michalovce at p < 0.001 and Svidnik/Stropkov at p < 0.01). Natural killer (NK) cell levels decreased 50% in Michalovce 6- and 16-month-old children and 42% among 6-month-olds in Svidnik/Stropkov (p < 0.001). Compared with the less-contaminated region, Michalovce samples showed significantly higher expression of CD3(+) T-lymphocytes, B-lymphocytes, and activated B-lymphocytes, whereas NK cells were less expressed. Even after adjustment for selected covariates, e.g., maternal cigarette smoking, age, parity, ethnicity, birth weight, and gender of infant, the levels of CD19(+), HLADR(+)CD19(+), and CD3(-)CD(16 + 56)(+) cells were seen to remain significantly different between the districts. These results showed that early-life environmental PCB exposure was associated with fluctuations in major lymphocyte subsets in children, suggesting that there is a post-natal immune system response to PCB exposures.

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