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Bacterial translocation and immunohistochemical measurement of gut immune function
  1. N P Woodcock,
  2. J Robertson,
  3. D R Morgan,
  4. K L Gregg,
  5. C J Mitchell,
  6. J MacFie
  1. The Combined Gastroenterology Unit and Department of Histopathology, Scarborough Hospital, Woodlands Drive, Scarborough YO12 6QL, North Yorkshire, UK
  1. Mr J MacFie Johnmacfie{at}


Aims—The local immune response in the small bowel mucosa might play a role in bacterial translocation (BT). The aim of this study was to quantify immune cells and secretory antibodies in the small bowel mucosa, and relate this to BT as assessed by culture of a mesenteric lymph node.

Methods—Immunohistochemical techniques were used to measure the frequency of plasma cells and IgA and IgM positive cells in the lamina propria and semiquantitatively to assess mucosal surface IgA and IgM values in small bowel specimens obtained from 11 patients in whom positive evidence of BT had been identified in a mesenteric lymph node harvested at the time of laparotomy. These were compared with similar specimens obtained from 11 patients in whom a similar lymph node had yielded no growth.

Results—BT was associated with a significantly increased median frequency of plasma cells (p < 0.01) and IgA positive cells (p < 0.05) in the lamina propria. The frequency of IgM positive cells was also higher in these patients, although this difference was not significant. In addition, semiquantitatively scored IgA and IgM concentrations at the mucosal surface were both significantly higher in the patients in whom BT had been identified (p = 0.006 and 0.016, respectively).

Conclusion—Higher numbers of plasma cells and higher IgA and IgM values are present in the small bowel mucosa of patients in whom BT has been shown to occur, suggesting an increased local immune response.

  • bacterial translocation
  • immunohistochemistry
  • immune function
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