Disproportionate lymphoid cell subsets in thalassaemia major: The relative contributions of transfusion and splenectomy
The relative proportions of T-cell (OKT3-positive, OKT4-positive and OKT8-positive) and B-cell (SIg-positive) populations in peripheral blood obtained from 29 chronically transfused patients with beta-thalassaemia major were compared with those of 17 healthy controls. Changes attributable to blood transfusion and/or splenectomy are described. The percentage of OKT8-positive (T-suppressor) cells found in the thalassaemic patients increased linearly (P less than 0.001) with the number of units transfused, irrespective of splenectomy. The percentage of OKT4-positive (T-helper) cells varied inversely with increasing transfusion in nonsplenectomized patients while in those who were splenectomized no significant correlation was apparent. Thus, in both groups of patients the T4/T8 ratio declined in a transfusion-related manner. The splenectomized patients experienced a marked and persistent lymphocytosis due to an increase in the number of both T- and B-cells. When the results were expressed as percentages, the greatest increase occurred in the number of B-cells, this increase being unrelated to the number of transfusions received. None of the serum parameters usually associated with iron overload or abnormal liver function correlated with the observed increases in T-suppressor and SIg-positive cells. These findings corroborate reports that transfusion of blood products may lead to decreased T4/T8 ratios. However, none of the patients studied manifested clinical signs of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Accordingly, studies which define transfusion related AIDS on the basis of analyses with monoclonal antibodies must be viewed with caution.