Polysorbate 80 and E-Ferol toxicity

Pediatrics. 1986 Apr;77(4):593-7.


The relatively recent introduction and use of an intravenous form of a vitamin E preparation (E-Ferol) has been associated with the development of an unusual syndrome and fatalities among low birth weight (less than 1,500 g), premature infants in neonatal intensive care units. We have observed an inhibitory effect by this vitamin E preparation on the in vitro response of human lymphocytes to phytohemagglutinin (PHA). E-Ferol suppressed the expected response to low doses of PHA. However, this suppression was not due to the alpha-tocopherol acetate (vitamin E) component, because alpha-tocopherol acetate by itself was not inhibitory; in fact, it often enhanced the PHA response. Because a mixture of polysorbate 80 and polysorbate 20 is used as a carrier in E-Ferol, these components were also tested and were found to be responsible for the suppression, especially the polysorbate 80. Concurrent with this suppression of PHA-induced mitogenesis was a decrease in the percentage of T11 lymphocytes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects*
  • Phytohemagglutinins / pharmacology
  • Polysorbates / adverse effects*
  • Tocopherols
  • Vitamin E / adverse effects
  • Vitamin E / analogs & derivatives*
  • alpha-Tocopherol* / analogs & derivatives*


  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • Polysorbates
  • Vitamin E
  • alpha-Tocopherol
  • Tocopherols