The effect of dexamethasone on interleukin 2 (IL-2) and interleukin 3 (IL-3) production by mononuclear cells in preterm and term infants and adults was evaluated. The capacity of mononuclear cells to produce these cytokines, in preterm infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) and treated with dexamethasone, was compared with that before treatment. Twenty six preterm and 36 term neonates and 24 healthy adults were included in the study. Mononuclear cells isolated from neonatal cord blood (CBMC) and adult peripheral blood (PBMC) were stimulated with phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) in the absence or presence of dexamethasone at concentrations between 10(-8)M and 10(-5)M. IL-2 and IL-3 activities in the supernatant fluids were tested using bioassays. The in vivo effect of the drug on the production of these cytokines by PBMC in 10 preterms was determined before and 24 hours after dexamethasone administration (0.5 mg/kg/day). The production of both cytokines was inhibited in a dose dependent manner. A difference in the sensitivity of mononuclear cells to the inhibitory effect of the drug was found between neonatal cord blood cells and adult PBMC, the former being more sensitive. PBMC from preterm infants treated with dexamethasone for BPD produced significantly less IL-2 and IL-3 as early as 24 hours after the initiation of the treatment (43% and 31%; P < 0.05, respectively). It is concluded that mononuclear cells from preterm and term neonates are more sensitive to the inhibitory effect of dexamethasone on IL-2 and IL-3 production.
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