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Infantile enteritis as cause of thymolymphatic atrophy

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The thymic weight of 115 infants under the age of 1 year was determined at autopsy. Marked thymic atrophy was found, in 37 cases, and was associated with absence of perifollicular lymphocytes (T cells) in the mesenteric lymph nodes in 22 cases. Moderate to severe villous atrophy of the intestinal mucosa was found in 26 of these infants. All infants with intestinal atrophy revealed a clinical history of servere repeated gastroenteritis and malnutrition.

Fifty-three infants of an orphanage below the age of 1 year were screened for thymic atrophy with serial monthly X-rays. The disappearance of the thymic shadow was directly related to the frequency and severity of diarrhoea and gastroenteritis.


Der Thymus von 115 Säuglingen, die vor Vollendung des 1. Lebensjahres starben, wurde, gewogen. Bei 37 Kindern wurde schwere Thymus-atrophie gefunden, die mit dem Fehlen der perifollikulären Lymphocyten (T-Zellen) in den Mesenteriallymphknoten und in 26 Fällen mit schwerer bis schwerster Atrophie der Dünndarmzotten verbunden war. Alle Kinder mit Darmatrophie litten während des Lebens unter wiederholten schweren Durchfällen.

Die Größe der Thymusdrüse wurde in Serienuntersuchungen mittels monatlicher Lungenröntgenuntersuchungen im Zuge einer Pneumozystosenepidemie geschätzt. Die Verkleinerung des Thymusschattens folgte auf wiederholte Durchfälle, die zu Marasmus führten, und zeigte eine direkte Relation zur Schwere der Gastroenteritis.

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This work was supported by a grant of the Austrian Ministry of Higher Education and Science and by a grant of the Pahlavi University, Research Fund.

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Dutz, W., Azadeh, B., Kohout, E. et al. Infantile enteritis as cause of thymolymphatic atrophy. Z. Kinder-Heilk. 115, 155–161 (1973).

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Key words

  • Thymicolymphatic atrophy
  • Infantile enteritis and immune deficiency
  • Acquired immune deficiency
  • Acquired Bretons disease
  • Diarrhoea, T cell deficiency and marasmus