Low serum IgA and increased expression of CD23 on B lymphocytes in peripheral blood in children with regressive autism aged 3-6 years old

Arch Med Sci. 2012 May 9;8(2):324-31. doi: 10.5114/aoms.2012.28561.


Introduction: Immune system dysfunction is considered to be one of many medical disorders found in children with autism. The primary objective of the study was to assess if blood tests reflecting humoral immunity (IgA, IgG, IgM, IgE) are useful in identifying children with regressive autism. The secondary objective was to evaluate a part of the cellular arm of immunity (CD4/CD25 Tregs, CD4/CD23 cells) in those children.

Material and methods: Using a clinical case-control design, the systemic levels of immunoglobulins and lymphocyte subpopulations analysed by flow cytometry were compared in children aged 3-6 years old with a new diagnosis of regressive autism (n = 24; mean age: 4.25 ±1.70 years; male 23/24) and in sex- and age-matched healthy children (n = 24; aged 4.25 ±2.20 years; male 23/24).

Results: The humoral immunity profile, described by three binary variables, IgA < 0.97 g/l, IgE > 36 IU/ml, and IgG > 6.3 g/l, with a sensitivity of 79% and a specificity of 83% (p < 0.0001), was able to identify children with autism. The highest risk of autism diagnosis was associated with IgA < 0.97g/l (OR - 23.0; p < 0.001). A higher number of CD19/CD23 was found in children diagnosed with autism than in the control group (36.82 ±6.72% vs. 18.20 ±3.95%; p < 0.02). No correlation between the number of CD23-positive cells and serum IgE levels was observed.

Conclusions: A subtle shift of serum immunoglobulins consisting of low-normal IgA and B cell activation expressed by an increase of CD23-positive cells may characterize children with regressive autism aged 3-6 years old.

Keywords: CD4/CD23; autism; flow cytometry; immunoglobulins.