Circulating phagocytes play a major role in the defence of the host against microbial infection. In an attempt to identify the reason for the unusual susceptibility to infection of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) various parameters of phagocytic cell function were assessed kinetically in whole blood, and the accumulation of cells in areas of inflammation was studied in vivo with the skin window technique. The effect on these parameters of conventional therapy with glucocorticoids and pulse therapy with large doses of methylprednisolone were examined. Patients on conventional doses of steroids had no abnormality of phagocyte function that might have predisposed to infection, apart from a reduced accumulation of monocytes in areas of inflammation and decreased lactoferrin secretion. Pulse therapy with methylprednisolone considerably delayed the secretion of lactoferrin and the adherence of neutrophils in most of the patients, as well as impairing bacterial killing and digestion.
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