Objective: To characterize the immunodeficiency in ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T) and to determine whether the immunodeficiency is progressive and associated with increased susceptibility to infections.
Study design: Records of 100 consecutive patients with A-T from the Johns Hopkins Ataxia-Telangiectasia Clinical Center (ATCC) were reviewed.
Results: Immunoglobulin (Ig) deficiencies are common, affecting IgG4 in 65% of patients, IgA in 63%, IgG2 in 48%, IgE in 23%, and IgG in 18%. Lymphopenia affected 71% of patients, with reduced B-lymphocyte number in 75%, CD4 T lymphocytes in 69%, and CD8 T lymphocytes in 51%. There was no trend for increased frequency or severity of immune abnormalities with age. Recurrent upper and lower respiratory tract infections were frequent: otitis media in 46% of patients, sinusitis in 27%, bronchitis in 19%, and pneumonia in 15%. Sepsis occurred in 5 patients, in 2 patients concurrent with cancer chemotherapy. Warts affected 17% of patients, herpes simplex 8%, molluscum contagiosum 5%, candidal esophagitis 3%, and herpes zoster 2%. Uncomplicated varicella infection occurred in 44% of patients; 2 patients had more than one clinical episode. No patient had Pneumocystis jerovici pneumonia or a complication of live viral vaccine.
Conclusions: In spite of the high prevalence of laboratory immunologic abnormalities, systemic bacterial, severe viral, and opportunistic infections are uncommon in A-T. Cross-sectional analysis suggests that the immune defect is rarely progressive.