The peripheral blood lymphocyte response of patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) to several polyclonal B cell activators was investigated. No differences were found in the reactivity to pokeweed mitogen and protein A between patients and controls; in contrast, the peripheral blood lymphocyte response to Staphylococcus aureus strain Cowan I (SAC) was significantly higher in patients with AS than in controls. This responsiveness was not influenced either by the presence of the HLA-B27 antigen or by environmental factors or associated diseases, and it was higher in patients with active AS than in those with inactive disease. The percentage of circulating B cells was normal. The responses to T cell mitogens and the percentages of T cell subpopulations were similar in patients and in controls. The peripheral blood lymphocyte hyperactivity of patients with AS to SAC was associated with an increased in vitro production of immunoglobulins.
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