Immunological alterations in adult obsessive-compulsive disorder

Donatella Marazziti, Silvio Presta, Chiara Pfanner, Alfredo Gemignani, Alessandra Rossi, Silverio Sbrana, Valeria Rocchi, Fabio Ambrogi, Giovanni B. Cassano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Some recent findings suggest the involvement of autoimmune mechanisms in childhood onset of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), on the basis of a parallel drawn with Sydenham's chorea, a manifestation of rheumatic fever. A monoclonal antibody called D8/D17 characterizing a B- lymphocyte antigen, present in almost all patients with rheumatic fever, has been found also in children affected by OCD, Tourette syndrome, and chronic tics to a greater degree than in healthy control subjects. The few observations of disturbances of some immunologic parameters in adult OCD patients, prompted the authors to investigate and compare subsets of peripheral immunological cells for differences in adult patients with OCD and healthy control subjects. Methods: Twenty patients suffering from OCD, with no comorbidity for other psychiatric disorders, were compared with a similar group of healthy control subjects. The immune subsets were measured by flow cytometry. Results: The CD8+ lymphocytes were significantly increased and CD4+ lymphocytes significantly decreased in OCD patients, while the other cells did not differ between the two groups. No correlation was found between immunologic and clinical parameters. Conclusions: These data indicate that patients with adult OCD showed increased CD8+, i.e., suppressor T lymphocytes, and decreased CD4+, which identify helper T lymphocytes, as compared with a similar group of healthy control subjects. The findings appear peculiar to patients with OCD and are suggestive of an immunologic imbalance, which might be related to the stress deriving from the frustrating situation determined by the disorder itself.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)810-814
Number of pages5
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Sep 15 1999


  • CD4 lymphocytes
  • CD4/CD8 ratio
  • CD8 lymphocytes
  • Immune system
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Peripheral immunological cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


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