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Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2003 Feb 15;167(4):587-92. Epub 2002 Nov 14.

Adaptive immunity to nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae.

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Department of Respiratory Medicine, Monash Medical Centre, Monash University, Melbourne.


Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) colonizes the upper respiratory tract of most healthy people and is also a major cause of infection in chronic obstructive lung disease. The immune response to this bacterium has not been well characterized. We tested the hypothesis that recurrent airway infection with NTHi may be associated with nonclearing adaptive immunity. Study subjects were healthy control subjects and patients with idiopathic bronchiectasis who had severe chronic infection with H. influenzae. We established that all subjects in both groups had detectable antibody to NTHi, suggesting that most normal people have developed an adaptive immune response. To characterize the nature of the immune response, we measured antigen-specific production of T helper cell cytokines and CD40 ligand by flow cytometry and immunoglobulin subclass levels in peripheral blood. We found that normal control subjects made Th1 response to NTHi with distinct CD40 ligand production. In contrast, subjects with bronchiectasis had predominant production of Th2 cytokines, decreased expression of CD40 ligand, and different immunoglobulin G subclass production. Therefore, chronic infection with NTHi in bronchiectasis is associated with a change in adaptive immunity that may be important in the pathogenesis of bronchial infection.

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