In a microcytotoxicity assay we tested lymphocyte cytotoxicity against autologous hepatocytes. The following cytotoxicity values were found (given mean +/- SEM): acute non-A, non-B (NANB) hepatitis 45.7 +/- 4.3% (n = 7), chronic NANB hepatitis 32.8 +/- 5.1% (n = 11), chronic active hepatitis B (CAH-B) 27.7 +/- 6.7% (n = 10), toxic lesions 18.1 +/- 4.2% (n = 18), controls with normal liver histology or minimal changes 4.9 +/- 2.5% (n = 8). Thus our study shows enhanced cellular cytotoxicity in acute and chronic NANB hepatitis and indicates that T cells as well as non-T cells have cytotoxic effector functions. These findings are similar to those obtained in CAH-B and suggest that cellular immune reactions play an important role in the course of NANB hepatitis. For comparison we tested cytotoxic reactions in toxic lesions. They were only moderate and well distinguishable from those observed in NANB hepatitis and CAH-B; they even may be unspecific. No correlation was seen between cytotoxicity and aminotransferase concentrations.
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