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Subpopulations of T Lymphocytes in Kenyan Patients with Visceral Leishmaniasis

Davy K. KoechKenya Medical Research Institute, P.O. Box 54840, Nairobi, Kenya

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Populations of peripheral blood T lymphocytes from patients with Kenyan visceral leishmaniasis were studied using specifically defined antisera (monoclonal antibodies, Ortho-mune® OKT3, OKT4, OKT6, and OKT8). The levels of total T lymphocytes and circulating thymocytes were within the same range as those of clinically normal individuals. However, the proportions of the helper/inducer T cells were lower in untreated patients than in the controls (18.9% vs. 39.7%) while the levels of suppressor/cytotoxic T cells were higher than in the controls (40.5% vs. 27.8%). After successful antileishmania treatment these levels showed a gradual return towards normal over a period of one year. It was concluded that immunosuppression observed is due to the levels of peripheral blood helper/inducer and suppressor/cytotoxic T lymphocytes.