Background: Regulatory T cells (Tregs) have been involved in impaired immunity and may have a pivotal role in persistence of viral infections.
Objective: To develop a simple and reliable in-house three color flow cytometery of peripheral blood to understand the role of HCV infection in the increase of Tregs.
Methods: The level of naturally occurring CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ regulatory T cells (nTregs) in 20 chronically infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) patients was compared to those of 15 healthy individuals by flowcytometry. In a different approach we performed permeabilization and intracellular staining before surface staining which allows the preservation of the surface molecules in the combined detection process and results in the normal frequency of nTregs in blood.
Results: Using the optimized method, it was shown that a significantly higher proportion of nTregs in the total CD4+ T cell population was seen in the peripheral blood of chronic HCV patients (0.83 ± 0.21%, p=0.05) as compared to controls (0.26 ± 0.1, p=0.05).
Conclusions: In accordance with other studies, we showed that HCV infection induces a dramatic increase in Tregs, which might contribute to the immune response failure during HCV infection.