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Clin Exp Immunol. 2001 Jun;124(3):392-7.

Association between natural killer cell activity and infection in immunologically normal elderly people.

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Division of Haematology, Third Department of Internal Medicine, Nippon Medical School, Tokyo, Japan.


Congenital patients who lack natural killer (NK) cell activity experience repeated polymicrobial infections. NK cell activity varies significantly among normal people, but it is unknown whether this variation influences their ability to fight infections. This study examined this concern. NK cell activity and other variables, i.e. age, sex, performance status (PS), serum albumin value, lymphocyte and neutrophil counts, various lymphocyte subsets, etc. were determined for 108 immunologically normal elderly subjects who were in nursing homes due to an impaired PS. We analysed for correlations between these variables and the follow-up results of the subjects. Forty-eight subjects developed infection(s) during the first year of follow-up. A low NK cell activity was associated with the development of infection (P = 0.0105, multivariate logistic regression analysis). The relative risk for the development of infection increased in accordance with the decrease in the NK cell activity. Eleven subjects died of infection during the study period. A low NK cell activity was associated with short survival due to infection (P = 0.0056, multivariate Cox's proportional-hazards regression analysis). Our data indicate that low NK cell activity is associated with development of infections and death due to infection in immunologically normal elderly subjects with an impaired PS.

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