Reduced production of immunoregulatory cytokines in vitamin A- and zinc-deficient Indonesian infants

F.T. Wieringa, M.A. Dijkhuizen, C.E. West

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Objective: To determine effects of vitamin A, zinc and iron deficiency in Indonesian infants on the ability to produce immunoregulatory cytokines. Design, setting and subjects: Immunological asssessment was done in 59 infants participating in a cross-sectional nutritional survey in rural West Java, Indonesia. Production of T-helper cell type-1 (Th1, cell-mediated) cytokines interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma), interleukin-12 (IL-12), interleukin-18 (IL-18) and T-helper cell type-2 (Th2, humoral) cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) were measured after stimulation with lipopolysaccharide and phytohemagglutinin in an ex vivo whole blood culture system. Circulating neopterin concentrations were determined as an indicator of in vivo macrophage activity. Results: Of the infants, 48% were vitamin A deficient, 44% were anemic (with 17% having iron deficiency anemia), and 17% were zinc deficient. Vitamin-A deficient infants had significantly reduced ex vivo production of IFN-gamma, but also significantly higher circulating neopterin concentrations. Production of IFN-gamma and IL-12 were strongly correlated, IFN-gamma and IL-18 production were not. Zinc deficiency was accompanied by significantly reduced white blood cell counts and reduced ex vivo production of IL-6. Iron status was not related to cytokine production. Conclusions: This study shows that in vitamin A deficiency there is Th1 dominance in a steady state, combined however with impairment of the Th1 response after stimulation, whereas in zinc deficiency, there is a decreased Th2 response. Overall, vitamin A deficiency and zinc deficiency have marked albeit different effects on the immunocompetence of infants, affecting both cell-mediated and humoral components of the immune system. Sponsorship: Netherlands Foundation for the Advancement of Tropical Research (WOTRO), and Ter Meulen Fund (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1498-1504
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • interferon-gamma
  • immunity
  • countries
  • release
  • disease
  • humans
  • rats
  • vivo


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