• chronic hepatitis C;
  • flow cytometry;
  • interferon;
  • lymphocyte subsets;
  • monoclonal antibodies

Abstract: Thirty-three patients with chronic hepatitis non-A, non-B/C were included in a randomized controlled study of recombinant alpha-2b interferon treatment 3 MU three times weekly for 36 weeks. In lysed whole blood, lymphocyte subpopulations were enumerated by flow cytometry detecting fluorescein or phycoerytrin conjugated monoclonal antibodies directed against seven different epitopes. Patients with chronic active hepatitis were significantly older than patients with chronic persistent hepatitis (p>0.05). Before treatment, the proportions of different subsets of lymphocytes were within the normal reference values and the CD4/CD8 ratio was also normal. No increased activation of T-cells was noticed. Patients over 50 years of age, however, had a significantly increased (p>0.01) proportion of HLA-DR + lymphocytes, mainly B-cells. Treatment decreased the absolute number of peripheral blood leukocytes and lymphocytes. There was also a significant decline in the proportion of CD8 + lymphocytes and NK-cells, and a significant increase in the proportion HLA-DR + cells and of the CD4/CD8 ratio. The increased proportion of HLA-DR + cells, however, did not reflect peripheral T-cell activation; instead, it was due to increasing B lymphocyte numbers.