OBJECTIVE: Maltreatment in childhood has been related to enduring changes in the immune system of adults, such as increased cell-mediated immune response.
PURPOSE: Due to the lack of data in children, this study examined lymphocyte subset numbers and distribution during youth.
METHODS: In 27 cases of 42 healthy but maltreated children, fully participating at follow-up 1-3years after the intervention of child protection team, and 19 cases of previously matched controls, analysis of blood samples by fluorescent activated cell sorter was consented.
RESULTS: With regard to age references, total lymphocyte counts were aberrant in maltreated children but not in controls. When compared to controls, the percentages and absolute numbers of activated (HLA-DR+) CD4+helper and CD8+cytotoxic T cells were significantly higher in maltreated children.
CONCLUSIONS: According to the typical distribution of HLA-DR+cells we assumed an increased stimulated cell-mediated immune function in maltreated children.