Immunotoxicological effects of Agent Orange exposure to the Vietnam War Korean veterans

Ind Health. 2003 Jul;41(3):158-66. doi: 10.2486/indhealth.41.158.


Immunomodulatory effects of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) demonstrated using animals are thymic atrophy, downregulation of cytotoxic T or B lymphocyte differentiation or activation, whereas human immunotoxicities have not been investigated well. This study was undertaken to evaluate overall immunologic spectrum of the Vietnam War Korean veterans exposed to Agent Orange contaminated with TCDD. Quantity of red blood cells, hemoglobin and hematocrit in the veterans suffered from chronic diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure (Veterans-patient group) were decreased in comparison with those of the veterans without the diseases and the age-matched healthy controls, but no differences in leukocyte populations. Plasma IgG levels were lowered in the veterans than the controls, owing to significant decrease in the IgG1 levels. Increase in the IgE levels was observed in the plasma from the veterans. Alteration of T cell-mediated immunity was also resulted from activation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells with polyclonal T cell activators. Production of IFNgamma, a major cytokine mediating host resistance against infection or tumoregenesis, was lowered in the veterans-patient group. However, production of IL-4 and IL-10, representative cytokines involved with hypersensitivity induction, was enhanced in the patient group. Overall, this study suggests that military service in Vietnam and/or Agent Orange exposure disturbs immune-homeostasis resulting in dysregulation of B and T cell activities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic Acid / poisoning*
  • 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid / poisoning*
  • Agent Orange
  • Antibody Formation / drug effects
  • Autoantibodies / biosynthesis
  • B-Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Defoliants, Chemical / poisoning*
  • Erythrocytes / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Korea / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / poisoning*
  • T-Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Veterans*
  • Vietnam
  • Warfare*


  • Autoantibodies
  • Defoliants, Chemical
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid
  • Agent Orange
  • 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic Acid