Neutrophil function studies have been carried out in a series of 44 patients with primary myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). In vitro tests of phagocytosis and killing of Candida guilliermondii and Staphylococcus aureus identified 13 patients with abnormal neutrophil function at presentation and a further 10 who developed abnormalities during the course of their disease. The incidence of defective function in the five disease categories in this series was: refractory cytopenia (RC) 8/17; refractory cytopenia with sideroblastic change (RC + SC) 5/8; acquired idiopathic sideroblastic anaemia (AISA) 2/4; refractory anaemia with excess blasts (RAEB) 7/11; chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia (CMML) 1/4. Eleven of 23 patients with defective neutrophil function experienced severe infective complications; in only three of these patients were neutrophil counts less than 1 X 10(9)/l and susceptibility to infection was considered to reflect, at least partially, qualitative neutrophil abnormalities. There was no correlation between absolute neutrophil count and defective function. Abnormal overall neutrophil microbicidal activity was equally associated with impaired and normal phagocytosis. Some patients with intracellular killing defects had reduced myeloperoxidase (MPO) activities and one had reduced hexose monophosphate shunt (HMPS) activity. In two patients, whose neutrophils showed markedly impaired candidacidal activity, levamisole corrected function when added in vitro at 10(-7) M and also when administered in therapeutic dosage. It is suggested that deranged function, probably reflecting abnormalities in maturation of the granulocyte series, occurs across the myelodysplastic spectrum and that several microbicidal mechanisms may be defective.
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