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Original Contribution
March 18, 1992

Lymphocyte Subsets in Healthy Children During the First 5 Years of Life

Author Affiliations

From the AIDS Clinical Trials Unit and the Department of Pediatrics, New Jersey Medical School and Children's Hospital of New Jersey, Newark (Mr Denny and Drs Skuza, Oleske, and Connor); the AIDS Clinical Trials Unit and the Department of Pediatrics, Children's Memorial Hospital, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, Ill (Drs Yogev and Chadwick); and the Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, DanaFarber Cancer Institute and the Department of Biostatistics, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Mass (Dr Gelman and Miss Cheng).

JAMA. 1992;267(11):1484-1488. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03480110060034

Objective.  —To assess whether relative and absolute values of CD4 and CD8 lymphocytes and CD4/CD8 ratio change in relation to age, and to estimate the fifth and 95th percentiles for these values in children of various ages.

Patients and Methods.  —Phenotypic analysis of lymphocyte subsets was performed on blood samples from 208 healthy children, aged 1 through 59 months, using standard flow cytometric techniques.

Results.  —Regression analysis demonstrated that CD4 and CD8 lymphocyte counts declined significantly with advancing age (P<.000001 and P=.03, respectively). Since CD4 and CD8 counts depend on total lymphocyte count, the percentage of total lymphocytes of each phenotype was also analyzed and demonstrated that the CD4 percentage was highly age dependent (P<.000001). The CD8 percentage increased with age (P=.0001) but not as much as the CD4 percentage decreased. Median CD4 counts (fifth and 95th percentiles) for children 2 through 3,4 through 8,12 through 23, and 24 through 59 months of age were 2.83 (1.46 to 5.11), 2.95 (1.69 to 4.61), 2.07 (1.02 to 3.60), and 1.80 (0.90 to 2.86) × 109/L, respectively.

Conclusion.  —Healthy children's CD4 lymphocyte counts are considerably higher than previously established adult values. These data demonstrate that age is an important consideration in interpretation of lymphocyte subsets in children. This may be especially relevant in children who are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, where CD4 lymphocyte values play a central role in monitoring disease progression and determining thresholds for medical interventions.(JAMA. 1992;267:1484-1488)