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Curr Drug Metab. 2002 Apr;3(2):175-87.

Neopterin as a marker for immune system activation.

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Institute of Medical Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Innsbruck, Austria.


Increased amounts of neopterin are produced by human monocytes/macrophages upon stimulation with the cytokine interferon-y. Therefore, measurement of neopterin concentrations in body fluids like serum, cerebrospinal fluid or urine provides information about activation of T helper cell 1 derived cellular immune activation. Increased neopterin production is found in infections by viruses including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), infections by intracellular living bacteria and parasites, autoimmune diseases, malignant tumor diseases and in allograft rejection episodes. But also in neurological and in cardiovascular diseases cellular immune activation indicated by increased neopterin production, is found. Major diagnostic applications of neopterin measurements are, e.g. monitoring of allograft recipients to recognize immunological complications early. Neopterin production provides prognostic information in patients with malignant tumor diseases and in HIV-infected individuals, high levels being associated with poorer survival expectations. Neopterin measurements are also useful to monitor therapy in patients with autoimmune disorders and in individuals with HIV infection. Screening of neopterin concentrations in blood donations allows to detect acute infections in a non-specific way and improves safety of blood transfusions. As high neopterin production is associated with increased production of reactive oxygen species and with low serum concentrations of antioxidants like alpha-tocopherol, neopterin can also be regarded as a marker of reactive oxygen species formed by the activated cellular immune system. Therefore, by neopterin measurements not only the extent of cellular immune activation but also the extent of oxidative stress can be estimated.

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