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Keywords:

  • antibody deficiency;
  • bronchiectasis;
  • Haemophilus influenzae;
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae

Summary

Bronchiectasis is a common complication of primary antibody deficiency but the incidence of antibody deficiency as an underlying cause of bronchiectasis is largely undefined. In this study the humoral immune status of a cohort of bronchiectatic patients was investigated to detect the frequency of significant antibody deficiency and to determine the extent of immunological investigation which is appropriate for routine assessment of bronchiectasis patients. Fifty-six out-patients (with a mean age of 59·6 years) had serum immunoglobulins, IgG subclasses and specific antibodies to capsular polysaccharides of Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae measured. Where specific antibody ­levels were low, where possible, appropriate immunization with pneumococcal or conjugated Haemophilus polysaccharide vaccines was offered and the responses quantified. Three of 56 patients had low total serum IgG levels. Thirteen of 56 had deficiencies of either a single IgG subclass or combinations of two or more subclasses, with IgG4 being most frequently implicated (9/56). Twenty-nine of 56 had low basal specific polysaccharide antibody levels. Test immunization, where performed, produced satisfactory responses in all cases except one, where a specific defect of responsiveness to pneumococcal polysaccharide was identified. This study indicates that antibody deficiency is an uncommon aetiological/underlying factor in the causation of bronchiectasis beyond the fourth decade and that detailed investigation of humoral immune status as a routine in bronchiectasis patients, at least at this age, is not generally justified.