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Pediatr Res. 1988 May;23(5):457-62.

Analysis of lymphocyte proliferative response subpopulations in very low birth weight infants and during the first 8 weeks of life.

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Department of Pediatrics, Cornell University Medical Center, New York, NY 10021.


Cell-mediated immunity is not well characterized in very low birth weight infants, and abnormalities may represent a significant vulnerability to infection. This report describes 165 serial studies in 58 infants between 700 and 1300 g birth weight during the first 8 wk of life. Two ml of blood were drawn at 2-wk intervals to measure T cell numbers and subsets and response to phytohemagglutinin (PHA). Overall, lymphocyte proliferation to PHA averaged 17,264 cpm, significantly less than the adult control (23,566 cpm). T cell numbers and subsets were CD3 62% (adult controls 75%), CD4 45% (49%), and CD8 18.6% (27%). Values at birth were lower as all parameters increased for at least the first 4 wk of life: PHA at birth was 15,464 cpm, CD3 48%, CD4 37%, and CD8 13%. Because of the lymphocytosis of premature infants, the absolute numbers of total T cells and subsets were within the normal adult range despite less than 50% of the mononuclear cells at birth being T cells. A study of five infants demonstrated an average of 52% B7+ cells at birth showing that the number of B cells at birth was increased approximately 10-fold over the control number in adults. Clinical correlation showed that the increases in both the % CD8 and the absolute number of CD8+ lymphocytes after birth were correlated with both the occurrence of sepsis and the assessed lymphocyte subsets in a sizeable number of very low birth weight infants serially during the first 8 wk of life including lymphocyte function using isolated mononuclear cells.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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