Background & aims: An impaired monocyte function and impaired interferon (IFN)-gamma production has been suggested as a possible pathogenetic factor in Whipple's disease (WD) and as a cause for the delayed elimination of Tropheryma whipplei in some patients.
Methods: We studied, in a series of 20 WD patients with various degrees of disease activity, cellular immune functions.
Results: We found an increased in vitro production of interleukin (IL)-4 by peripheral mononuclear blood cells as determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, but reduced secretion of IFN-gamma and IL-2 as compared with age- and sex-matched controls. In addition, we observed a significantly reduced monocyte IL-12 production in response to various stimuli in WD patients whereas other cytokines were comparable with controls; these immunologic alterations were not significantly different in patients with various disease activities. At the mucosal level, we found decreased CD4 T-cell percentage and a significantly impaired IFN-gamma secretion.
Conclusions: Our data define a defective cellular immune response in a large series of WD patients and point to an important pathogenetic role of impaired Th1 responses. The decreased monocyte IL-12 levels may result in reduced peripheral and mucosal IFN-gamma production and lead to an increased susceptibility to T. whipplei infection in certain hosts.