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Eighteen precipitin-positive pigeon breeders, thirteen symptomatic (SPB), with extrinsic allergic alveolitis (EAA), and five asymptomatic (APB), without lung disease, underwent bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL). Cytospins were prepared on which differential cell counts were performed. Immunocytological methods, using monoclonal antibodies, were performed to identify lymphocyte and macrophage subsets. Marked abnormalities in cell populations were observed in both groups but with no suggestion of differences between the groups. All subjects had a lymphocytosis in BAL (SPB 45%; APB 29%). These lymphocytes were almost exclusively T-cells. The cluster designation CD4/CD8 ratio was decreased (SPB 0.86; APB 1.13) and a significantly higher proportion of these cells than normal expressed UCHL1 (an antigen associated with the common leucocyte antigen complex) indicating immune commitment. In the macrophage population increased proportions of cells expressing antigens associated with interdigitating cells (RFD1+) and mature macrophages (RFD7+) were also abnormal. When six SPB patients were relavaged after isolation from pigeons for three weeks, there was a significant reduction in the lymphocytosis and in the proportion of UCHL1+ lymphocytes. This was accompanied by reductions in the percentage of macrophages expressing RFD1 and UCHL1. We suggest that EAA in pigeon breeders is associated with a cell-mediated immune response which is down-regulated by isolating patients from exposure to pigeon derived antigens.


Journal article


Eur Respir J

Publication Date





445 - 450


Adult, Alveolitis, Extrinsic Allergic, Antibodies, Monoclonal, Antigens, Bird Fancier's Lung, Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid, Cell Count, Cell Membrane, Humans, Immunity, Cellular, Immunohistochemistry, Lymphocytes, Macrophages, Middle Aged, T-Lymphocytes