We have investigated the levels of Th1 (IL-2 and IFN-gamma) and Th2 (IL-4) cytokines in the plasma and supernatants following peripheral blood mononuclear cell culture and mitogen stimulation in a group of 39 patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) made up of 29 SS, 8 Sbeta-thal and 2 Hb SD in steady state. Five SS patients were studied during 7 episodes of vaso-occlusive crisis. Twenty-four control (3 Hb AS and 21 Hb AA) were also studied; 10 were acutely ill while 14 were healthy at the time of the study. The plasma levels of IL-2 and IFN-gamma were similar in the patients and the controls. However, plasma IL-4 was significantly higher among the steady-state SS patients than in the controls. While there was no significant difference in cytokine levels following mitogen stimulation in the different groups, plasma IL-2 to IL-4 and IFN-gamma to IL-4 ratios were significantly lower among the steady-state SS patients, indicating a possible Th2 bias in our sickle cell patients and suggesting a possible mechanism to explain the predisposition of SCD patients to bacterial infections. However, SS patients with good splenic function showed a relative Th1 bias, which may be an additional explanation for the protection against bacterial infections in such patients.
Copyright 2000 S. Karger AG, Basel