Anti-neutrophil antibodies have been shown in sera from patients with a variety of inflammatory diseases. Those reacting with components of neutrophil cytoplasm are associated with systemic vasculitis. Both nuclear and perinuclear staining patterns on human neutrophils have been reported using sera from patients with inflammatory bowel disease. We have evaluated the reactivity against human neutrophils of sera from 100 patients with inflammatory bowel disease, 14 disease controls, and 20 normal volunteers. Altogether 27/50 (54%) sera from patients with ulcerative colitis contained antibodies that reacted with cytospun ethanol fixed neutrophils compared with 5/50 (10%) from Crohn's disease (p less than 0.001) and 0/34 control sera (p less than 0.001). All seven sera from patients with proctitis alone were negative (p less than 0.01). There was no correlation between presence or titre of anti-neutrophil antibodies and either disease activity or treatment. Positive sera gave three different staining patterns on human neutrophils. The predominant pattern was perinuclear (17/32); 12 sera gave a cytoplasmic and three a homogeneous nuclear staining pattern. None of the patients or the controls had antibodies to myeloperoxidase, elastase, or serine proteinase 3, all of which are recognised by anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies. Only 2/27 sera positive by indirect immunofluorescence reacted with an extract of neutrophil primary granules. In conclusion, anti-neutrophil antibodies occur more commonly in ulcerative colitis than in Crohn's disease or control subjects and the anti-neutrophil antibodies found in inflammatory bowel disease are different from those associated with vasculitis.
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