AIMS/BACKGROUND: Soluble ICAM-1 may act as an antagonist of the membrane bound form, which is essential for the adhesion of leucocytes to endothelial cells. The aim of this study was to investigate whether the presence of high concentrations of soluble ICAM-1 are related to the impairment of delayed-type hypersensitivity reactions. METHODS: The study population comprised 73 patients (53 men and 20 women) with chronic liver disease (19 with chronic hepatitis, 36 with cirrhosis and 18 with hepatocellular carcinoma), and 21 age-matched controls (11 men and 10 women). Serum soluble ICAM-1 was measured using an enzyme immunoassay. Skin tests for seven different antigens (tetanus, diphtheria, streptococcus group C, tuberculin, Candida, tricophyton, and proteus) were considered positive when diameters > or = 2 mm were recorded; the diameters of positive tests were added to calculate a cumulative score. RESULTS: Patients with chronic liver disease had fewer positive skin tests (median 2) and a lower cumulative score (median 7) than controls (median 3 and 12, respectively). Multivariate analysis suggested the existence of an independent association between alkaline phosphatase and anergy to skin tests and between soluble ICAM-1 concentrations and the cumulative score. CONCLUSIONS: The strong association observed between increased soluble ICAM-1 concentrations and impairment of delayed-type hypersensitivity skin tests suggests that soluble ICAM-1 may be implicated in the immune depression seen in patients with chronic liver disease.
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