Cellular Immune Response Analysis of Patients with Leptospirosis

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  • Immunogenetics and Experimental Transplantation Laboratory, Department of Internal Medicine, Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de Sao Paulo, and Hospital Emilio Ribas de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from acute leptospirosis patients with and without acute renal failure were studied in order to investigate the status of cellular immunity in this disease. We analyzed the lymphocyte subsets of leptospirosis patients by immunofluorescence and their responsiveness to the mitogens phytohemagglutinin (PHA) and pokeweed mitogen (PWM). Additionally, we investigated the effect of the patients' sera on normal PBMC proliferative response.

We observed a decrease in the CD3+ and CD4+ cell subsets in patients with and without acute renal failure, or in percentage values alone in those who had recovered from renal failure. An increase in the number of B lymphocytes was observed in all patients, compared with controls. This increase in B lymphocytes was seen even in patients who had recovered from renal failure, when the number of CD3+ and CD4+ lymphocytes had already returned to normal levels. The low PHA response observed only with lymphocytes for patients with acute renal failure suggests a suppressive effect. The proliferative response to PWM was comparable to controls, even in the patients with acute renal failure. This latter result and the expansion of the B cell number could be related to leptospiral-derived factor(s). We also showed that sera from patients with and without acute renal failure exerted some inhibitory activity on normal PBMC responses to PHA and PWM.

Although the redistribution of lymphocyte subsets and the serum suppressor activity were related to acute renal failure and leptospiral factor(s), we suggest that the cellular immune system was not irreversibly affected, which is compatible with the good prognosis seen in the patients studied.