Introduction: Rabbit Anti-Thymocyte Globulin (r-ATG) is a polyclonal antibody preparation, used to prevent and treat acute rejection episodes after organ transplantation. However, despite more than 40. years of clinical use, the optimal dose of r-ATG is still not defined. To find a better balance between efficacy and infectious complications, we embarked on a controlled study and monitored the effect of low and ultra-low dosages Thymoglobulin (Genzyme) on peripheral T, B, and NK cells. Patients and methods: Kidney transplant recipients received either 0.5. mg/kg, 1.0. mg/kg or 2.0. mg/kg on the first 3 consecutive days post-transplantation. Thus, total doses were 1.5. mg/kg, 3.0. mg/kg and 6.0. mg/kg. A total of 40 patients were enrolled, including 11 controls. All patients were treated with Prednisolon, Advagraf (Astellas) and Mycophenolate Mofetil (Roche). T (CD3. +), B (CD19. +) and NK (CD3-CD16. +. 56. +) cells were analyzed by flow cytometry. Baseline cell counts were compared to forty age and sex matched healthy persons. Post-transplantation cell counts of the 3 Thymoglobulin groups were compared to the 11 control patients, who received no induction therapy. Results: Absolute numbers of T, B, and NK cells were comparable in all patients pre-transplantation, but T and B cells were lower than in healthy persons (p. =. 0.007 and p. =. 0.0003, Mann Whitney test). In the first week, T cells and NK cells were significantly lower in all Thymoglobulin groups compared to controls. B cells were not affected. One month after Thymoglobulin NK cells had returned to control numbers in all groups, while T cells had already recovered to control counts in the 1.5. mg/kg group. During follow-up, T cells in the 3.0. mg/kg group also returned to control values, but at one year the patients in the 6.0. mg/kg group still had significantly lower T cells (p. =. 0.03). Patient and graft survival, rejection and infection incidence and renal function did not differ between groups. Conclusion: Patients with end stage renal disease have significantly lower peripheral T and B cell counts than healthy persons. (Ultra-) low Thymoglobulin schedules deplete peripheral lymphocytes in a dose dependent way. Knowledge of the duration of this depletion contributes to finding the optimal immunosuppressive strategy for kidney transplant recipients.

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Transplant Immunology
Department of Internal Medicine

Kho, M., Bouvy, A., Cadogan, M., Kraaijeveld, R., Baan, C., & Weimar, W. (2012). The effect of low and ultra-low dosages Thymoglobulin on peripheral T, B and NK cells in kidney transplant recipients. Transplant Immunology, 26(4), 186–190. doi:10.1016/j.trim.2012.02.003