Peripheral blood lymphocyte subpopulations were measured in 18 patients with primary proliferative polycythaemia and 13 patients with secondary polycythaemia. A decrease in numbers of suppressor T lymphocytes and an increase in the helper:suppressor T lymphocyte ratio was found in those with primary polycythaemia compared with normal subjects and patients with secondary polycythaemia. If other causes of an increased helper:suppressor ratio are excluded this variable may be useful in confirming the myeloproliferative nature of patients with erythrocytosis.
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