Changes in B cell immunophenotype in common variable immunodeficiency: cause or effect – is bronchiectasis indicative of undiagnosed immunodeficiency?


Correspondence: H. J. Longhurst, Immunology Department, Royal London Hospital, Pathology and Pharmacy Building, 80 Newark Street, Whitechapel, London E1 2ES, UK.



Common variable immunodeficiency (CVID) is the most common severe primary immunodeficiency, but the pathology of this condition is poorly understood. CVID involves a defect in the production of immunoglobulin from B cells, with a subsequent predisposition to infections. Approximately 10–20% of cases are inherited, but even in families with a genetic defect the penetrance is far from complete. A classification system for CVID has been suggested (EUROclass) based on B cell immunophenotyping, but it has not been shown that altered B cell immunophenotype is not a consequence of the complications and treatment of CVID. This study compares the EUROclass B cell immunophenotype of CVID patients (n = 30) with suitable disease controls with bronchiectasis (n = 11), granulomatous disease (Crohn's disease) (n = 9) and neurological patients on immunoglobulin treatment (n = 6). The results of this study correlate with previous literature, that alterations in B cell immunophenotype are associated strongly with CVID. Interestingly, three of the 11 bronchiectasis patients without known immunodeficiency had an altered B cell immunophenotype, suggesting the possibility of undiagnosed immunodeficiency, or that bronchiectasis may cause a secondary alteration in B cell immunophenotype. This study showed a significant difference in B cell immunophenotype between CVID patients compared to disease control groups of granulomatous disease and immunoglobulin treatment. This suggests that granulomatous disease (in Crohn's disease) and immunoglobulin treatment (for chronic neurological conditions) are not causal of an altered B cell immunophenotype in these control populations.