T helper cell subset ratios in patients with severe sepsis

N R Ferguson, H F Galley, N R Webster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

102 Citations (Scopus)


Background: T helper 1 (Th1) lymphocytes produce interferon gamma (IFN gamma), favouring cell mediated immunity; Th2 cells secrete interleukin-4 (IL-4), favouring humoral immunity. Cytokines produced in sepsis may effect Th subset predominance and subsequent immune responses.

Methods: We measured Th subsets in ten patients with severe sepsis, seven APACHE II score-matched non-septic critically ill control patients, and ten healthy subjects.

Mononuclear leukocytes were isolated and Th subsets: identified by flow cytometry. Results: The median (range) Th1/Th2 ratio was 0.46 (0.2-2.5) in patients with sepsis, which was significantly lower than both non-septic controls (median 2.5 (0.2-5.9), p = 0.050) and healthy subjects (median 3.9 (1.2-10.8), p = 0.01).

Conclusions: In patients with sepsis, Th2 antibody mediated (humoral) immune responses predominate. This type of response may lead to fibroblast activation and ultimately immunosuppression. Modulation of Th cell subset predominance may present a novel therapeutic option in the treatment of severe sepsis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-109
Number of pages4
JournalIntensive Care Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • leukocytes
  • T cells
  • sepsis
  • cytokines
  • interleukin-4
  • interferon gamma
  • IL-10
  • TH1


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