Morphological and quantitative neutrophil abnormalities are common in the megaloblastic anemias of vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiency. Little is known, however, about the role of these vitamins in normal leukocyte function. Seven patients with megaloblastic bone marrows, four with vitamin B12 deficiency and three with folic acid deficiency, were studied to determine the effect, if any, of these deficiencies on leukocyte function. Phagocytosis of staphylococci, hexose monophosphate shunt activation with phagocytosis, and microbicidal capacity against Staphylococcus aureus were determined prior to the institution of specific therapy. In two instances, these studies were repeated following treatment. There was no impairment of phagocytosis per se, and resting metabolism was not significantly decreased. With phagocytosis, however, metabolic activation was decreased to 35%-36% of control values in the leukocytes of patients with vitamin B12 deficiency but not in the leukocytes of patients with folic acid deficiency. Bacterial killing was slightly decreased in vitamin B12 but not in folic acid deficiency. These abnormalities of function were reversed after specific therapy. These findings suggested a specific role for vitamin B12 in the production of intermediates necessary for normal cell function.

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