Peripheral blood taken from seven patients with mild cirrhosis and seven with severe cirrhosis caused by hepatitis C virus was stained with two colors by the combination of antibodies to CD8 and CD11b, CD57 and CD16, CD5 and CD20, CD4 and CD45RA, γδTCR (T cell receptor) and CD3, and otherwise with three colors by anti-CD4, anti-interferon gamma (IFN-γ) and anti-interleukin 4 (IL-4), followed by flow cytometoric analysis to detect surface antigen and/or intracellular cytokines. The proportion of CD4+CD45RA+ suppressor- inducer T cells significantly increased and that of CD8+CD11b- cytotoxic T cells significantly decreased in the severe cirrhotic patients. In the T helper (Th) subset analysis, T cells producing IFN-γ (Th1 type cytokine) showed a high proportion in cirrhotic patients compared to healthy controls, while no correlation was detected to the severity of the cirrhosis. T cells producing IL-4 (Th2 type cytokine) showed a low proportion in both cirrhotic patients and healthy controls. In conclusion, not the alteration of Th1 and Th2 proportions but the increased proportion of suppressor-inducer T cells may be one of the causes of the impaired immune response in severe cirrhotic patients.
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