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Reduction of the number of immunocompetent cells in the acute stage of herpes zoster

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Circulating and in situ mononuclear cell subsets were phenotypically characterized during both the acure and convalescent phase of herpes zoster infections in 14 patients. In peripheral blood a significant reduction in the absolute number of Leu 4+ T cells, Leu 2a+ suppressor/cytotoxic T cells, Leu 3a+ helper/inducer T cells, Leu 7+ killer cells, and B1+ B cells were found during the acute stage compared to convalescents and normal controls. In contrast no change in the absolute number of MO2+ monocytes was seen in the acute stage of the disease. During convalescence a return to normal values in the lymphocyte subsets and killer cells was seen within 1–2 months after the initial disease presentation.

In skin biopsy specimens from 4 of the 14 patients with active herpes zoster lesions the cellular infiltrate consisted of T cells (Leu 4+) the majority being helper/inducer T cells (Leu 3a+). Most of the cells expressed HLA-DR (Ia) antigens and were according to this in an activated state.

The observed changes in effector and regulatory cell numbers may have implications for the acquisition of Varicella-zoster virus infections, the immune deficiency state associated with the disease, and/or the immune response to resolve the infection.

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Correspondence to O. Baadsgaard.

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Baadsgaard, O., Lindskov, R. & Geisler, C. Reduction of the number of immunocompetent cells in the acute stage of herpes zoster. Arch Dermatol Res 279, 374–378 (1987). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00412622

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Key words

  • Herpes zoster
  • Monoclonal antibodies
  • T cells
  • B cells
  • Monocytes