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Clin Exp Immunol. 2001 Mar;123(3):451-8.

Lack of evidence for the Th2 predominance in patients with chronic hepatitis C.

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Department of Public Health and Cellular Biology, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.


A T helper (Th)1 to Th2 shift has been proposed to be a critical pathogenic determinant in chronic hepatitis C. Here, we evaluated mitogen-induced and hepatitis C virus (HCV) core antigen-induced cytokine production in 28 patients with biopsy-proven chronic hepatitis C. Flow cytometry demonstrated that after mitogenic stimulation the percentage of Th2 cells (IL-4 + or IL-13 +) and Th0 cells (IFN-gamma/IL-4 + or IL-2/IL-13 +) did not differ between patients and controls. In contrast, the percentage of Th1 cells (IFN-gamma + or IL-2 +) was significantly increased in CD4 +, CD8 +, 'naive'-CD45RA + and 'memory'-CD45RO + T-cell subsets from patients versus controls. Similar results were obtained by ELISA testing supernatants from mitogen-stimulated, unfractionated peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) cultures. Interferon-alpha treatment was associated with a reduction in the mitogen-induced Th1 cytokine response in those patients who cleared their plasma HCV-RNA. Analysis of cytokine expression by CD4 + T cells after HCV core antigen stimulation in a subgroup of 13 chronic hepatitis C patients demonstrated no cytokine response in 74% of these patients and an IFN-gamma-restricted response in 26%. Finally, no Th2 shift was found in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated monocytes. These data indicate that a Th1 to Th2 shift does not occur in chronic hepatitis C.

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