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J Infect Dis. 1993 Aug;168(2):408-14.

The influence of thalidomide on the clinical and immunologic manifestation of erythema nodosum leprosum.

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Leprosy Unit, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Immunologic and clinical manifestations of erythema nodosum leprosum (ENL) and their response to thalidomide therapy were evaluated. Circulating tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF alpha) levels were assayed in serum obtained from lepromatous leprosy patients at diagnosis, during multidrug therapy, at the onset of ENL episodes, and during treatment with thalidomide. Patients with systemic ENL demonstrated the highest serum TNF alpha levels, which decreased significantly during thalidomide treatment. Serum TNF alpha in nonreactional patients was associated with mild flu-like symptoms and local inflammatory lesions. Serum interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) was also elevated in patients with high TNF alpha levels. Thalidomide therapy reduced not only serum TNF alpha levels and the clinical symptoms but also the dermal infiltration of polymorphonuclear leukocytes and T cells. The expression of intercellular adhesion molecule 1 and major histocompatibility complex class II antigens on the epidermal keratinocytes was also down-regulated. These results indicate that the thalidomide-induced alleviation of clinical symptoms of ENL was associated with a reduction of TNF alpha levels.

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