Patients with hemophilia are at risk for the development of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Patients with AIDS have recurrent infections and/or malignancy and altered immune response, including decreased T lymphocyte counts, decreased T helper lymphocytes, defective T cell blastogenesis, hypergammaglobulinemia, defective natural killer (NK) activity and impaired response of NK to interferon- beta (IFN-beta). It is feasible that chronic antigen stimulation with subsequent release of interferon could be related to the impaired NK reactivity to IFN-beta of patients with AIDS. Because hemophiliacs are subjected to chronic antigen stimulation secondary to the administration of foreign protein, the reactivity of NK cells from patients with hemophilia to IFN-alpha, IFN-beta and IFN-gamma was studied. Eight patients with hemophilia requiring high levels of clotting factor replacement were assessed. Three patients were antibody positive to HTLV-III. All had normal baseline NK cell function. In the first set of experiments, all patients responded normally to in vitro IFN-alpha by increasing NK activity, but four patients had significant failure and two had mild impairment in NK response to IFN-beta. This latter observation was particularly evident at very low concentrations of IFN. In repeated experiments, seven of eight had impaired NK response to IFN-beta and IFN-gamma but normal response to IFN-alpha. Only one patient's NK cells responded better to IFN-gamma. There was no obvious correlation of these findings to antibody status to HTLV-III. Chronic antigen stimulation and the modulation of interferon receptors are discussed as possible mechanisms that could produce these findings.

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