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Am J Clin Nutr. 1988 Aug;48(2):335-42.

Thymulin (facteur thymique serique) and zinc contents of the thymus glands of malnourished children.

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  • 1Institut Français de Recherche Scientifique pour le Développement en Coopération (ORSTOM), Paris, France.


Protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) leads to an immune deficiency, which is now well documented. Some investigators have suggested that the associated zinc deficiency is important in thymic involution and changes in cellular immunity. To evaluate the respective roles of nutritional deficiency, infection, and zinc in the alteration of thymic function, we measured the amounts of thymulin (facteur thymic serique, or FTS) and of Zn in the thymus glands of 58 Senegalese children who died in various stages of malnutrition. In the severe forms (marasmus, kwashiorkor, and marasmic kwashiorkor) the thymus was tiny and contained very little thymulin. The Zn content of the thymus was high whatever the nutritional state of the subject and was related significantly only to the presence of infections. In Senegalese children thymic atrophy and depleted thymulin content are associated with severe PEM but not systemic infection or depleted thymic Zn content.

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