Effect of transfusional iron overload on immune response
Increased susceptibility to infectious disease is observed in persons with transfusion-dependent thalassemia and iron overload who experience increased exposure to pathogens and chronic immune stimulation. An abnormal low CD8(+) T (LT8) immune phenotype defines a subgroup of patients. The CD8(+) T cell immunophenotype is stable despite continued blood transfusion and is independent of age. CD8(+) T cells, but not CD4(+) T cells, were modulated during intravenous chelation with deferoxamine. Return to characteristic pretreatment levels of CD8 was observed in both the low and the normal groups, suggesting the possibility of a set point. Proliferative response to mitogens and antigens was increased by chelation. Because CD8(+) T cells are important in immune response to infectious disease, these studies suggest that intrinsic CD8(+) T cell subset differences may be a critical factor in determining susceptibility to infection independent of transfusional iron overload or alloantigen exposure.