Background: Since 1968 it has been known that bone marrow transplantation can ameliorate severe combined immunodeficiency, but data on the long-term efficacy of this treatment are limited. We prospectively studied immunologic function in 89 consecutive infants with severe combined immunodeficiency who received hematopoietic stem-cell transplants at Duke University Medical Center between May 1982 and September 1998.
Methods: Serum immunoglobulin levels and lymphocyte phenotypes and function were assessed and genetic analyses performed according to standard methods. Bone marrow was depleted of T cells by agglutination with soybean lectin and by sheep-erythrocyte rosetting before transplantation.
Results: Seventy-seven of the infants received T-cell-depleted, HLA-haploidentical parental marrow, and 12 received HLA-identical marrow from a related donor; 3 of the recipients of haploidentical marrow also received placental-blood transplants from unrelated donors. Except for two patients who received placental blood, none of the recipients received chemotherapy before transplantation or prophylaxis against graft-versus-host disease. Of the 89 infants, 72 (81 percent) were still alive 3 months to 16.5 years after transplantation, including all of the 12 who received HLA-identical marrow, 60 of the 77 (78 percent) who were given haploidentical marrow, and 2 of the 3 (67 percent) who received both haploidentical marrow and placental blood. T-cell function became normal within two weeks after transplantation in the patients who received unfractionated HLA-identical marrow but usually not until three to four months after transplantation in those who received T-cell-depleted marrow. At the time of the most recent evaluation, all but 4 of the 72 survivors had normal T-cell function, and all the T cells in their blood were of donor origin. B-cell function remained abnormal in many of the recipients of haploidentical marrow. In 26 children (5 recipients of HLA-identical marrow and 21 recipients of haploidentical marrow) between 2 percent and 100 percent of B cells were of donor origin. Forty-five of the 72 children were receiving intravenous immune globulin.
Conclusions: Transplantation of marrow from a related donor is a life-saving and life-sustaining treatment for patients with any type of severe combined immunodeficiency, even when there is no HLA-identical donor.