The response to skin testing with tuberculins extracted from various species of mycobacteria was studied in 49 patients from Dundee with chronic obstructive airways disease. Seventeen had never been treated with steroids (group 1), 17 were receiving short term high doses of prednisolone (group 2) and did not have impaired Synacthen tests; 15 were receiving long term maintenance treatment and did have impaired Synacthen tests (group 3). Erythematous and indurated reactions were seen in a few patients, more commonly to antigens from Mycobacterium tuberculosis than to the other species: neither of the latter treatment groups showed appreciable reduction in reactivity compared with that of the group 1 patients. The number and microanatomical distribution of the T4 and T8 lymphocytes and the M3 bearing monocytes and macrophages was studied immunocytochemically in cryostat sections of biopsy specimens from the antigen injection sites. The density of these cells was significantly less in clinically negative reactions than in those with erythema or induration, but was unrelated to the presence or absence of a history of treatment with prednisolone. The T4:T8 ratio in the section as a whole was similar to that of the peripheral blood, but T8 cells were relatively more common in the perivascular and periappendicular foci, and T4 lymphocytes were predominant in the diffuse component of the infiltrate. I12 receptor bearing lymphocytes were uncommon: such cells were least common in the clinically negative reactions, but the number and distribution were apparently unrelated to the presence or absence of prednisolone treatment. It was concluded that currently accepted regimens of treatment with prednisolone did not reduce the effector arm of type IV (delayed type hypersensitivity) responses and so are unlikely to compromise this aspect of protective immunity.
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