T lymphocyte subpopulations in anorexia nervosa and refeeding.

Department of Immunology, King's College School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, United Kingdom.
Clinical Immunology and Immunopathology 04/1997; 82(3):282-9. DOI: 10.1006/clin.1996.4310
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Several studies have addressed the question of the effects of starvation on immune function and changes in lymphocyte subsets. Patients with anorexia nervosa are severely malnourished, but there have been few studies of immune parameters in this group. For this reason, phenotypic markers of T cell function and activation were studied in 20 severely underweight patients with anorexia nervosa and again after a period of refeeding. The most significant finding was a reduction in the percentage and absolute number of CD8+ T cells in patients with anorexia, the result of a marked reduction in memory (CD45RO+RA-) CD8 cells. A tendency for recovery in numbers of this subset was seen after refeeding. A decreased memory:maive cell ratio was also seen among CD4 cells, but was less marked. Subtle abnormalities in activated CD4 and CD8 cells were also found in the patient group at the initial sampling, but did not follow any clear pattern. These findings indicate that starvation in anorexic patients is accompanied by a large change in memory CD8 T cells. It may be speculated that this relates to the perceived lack of symptomatic common viral infections in underweight anorexic patients and their return with the recovery of weight.