Immune system status was characterized in patients with hairy cell leukemia (HCL) with respect to explaining their chronic or recurrent infections with Epstein-Barr virus. Measures of cellular immune responsiveness for a group of 11 HCL patients were, in general, decreased when expressed as the proportion of tested patients with values less than 2 S.D. below mean values for a group of 17 healthy adults: T-cell enumeration, seven of 13; mitogen responsiveness of phytohemagglutinin, 10 of 11; concanavalin A, 10 of 11; pokeweed mitogen, 10 of 11; B-cell responsiveness by anti-immunoglobulin immunobead stimulation, two of six; responsiveness to streptolysin O antigen, four of seven; mixed-lymphocyte reaction, six of seven; natural killer cell activity, six of eight. Specific immunity to Epstein-Barr virus was measured by complement-independent, antibody-mediated virus neutralization (mean index for HCL patients being 56% of control value) and complement-dependent virus neutralization (98% of control value). We concluded that, in spite of depressed levels of immune responses measured with general, cellular assays, functional levels of complement-dependent virus-neutralizing antibody were present in these HCL patients.

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This work was supported by Grants CA-25873 and AI-18255 from NIH and by Grant PDT-134 from The American Cancer Society.

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