Subpopulation analysis of peripheral blood lymphocytes is a frequently used measure of immunocompetence. Yet, little is known about the lymphocyte subpopulations in the circulation and lymphoid organs after severe trauma. Blood, spleen, and lymph node (LN) subpopulations were compared in a rat model of burn injury (B) and burn injury with infection (BI). B and BI rats received 30% total body surface scald burns. Infection was induced by seeding wounds with Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Subpopulations were identified by flow cytometry 48 hours after burn. Helper lymphocytes were selectively depleted from the circulation of BI but not B animals, which caused the ratio of helper to suppressor cells (HSR) in BI animals to decrease significantly compared with the unburned controls. Both LN helper and suppressor cells were decreased in BI animals and the HSR was unchanged, but a selective reduction in suppressor cells in B LN increased the HSR relative to unburned controls. Spleen subpopulations were unchanged for both B and BI groups. Subpopulation changes after trauma and infection were different for each tissue examined.
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