The temporal profile of the anti-PF4/heparin immune response
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The immune response in heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) is puzzling: heparin-naive patients can develop IgG antibodies and clinical HIT as early as day 5, and evidence for an anamnestic response on heparin reexposure is lacking. We assessed daily serum samples by anti-PF4/heparin enzyme-immunoassay (EIA) in patients receiving heparin thromboprophylaxis. Of 435 patients, 56.1% showed an increase in EIA optical density (OD) of more than or equal to 15%, with more than 90% starting between days 4 and 14. After reaching maximum reactivity by days 10 to 12, ODs declined despite heparin continuation, including in 2 patients with clinical HIT. Individual IgG/A/M classes showed identical time of onset (median, day 6). Most (58.7%) antibody-positive patients developed all 3 Ig classes; only 11.3% lacked IgG response. IgG/A/M increase usually occurred simultaneously (+/- 1 day) with no general tendency for IgM precedence. Consistent with the transient immune response, none of the IgG-EIA-positive (OD > 0.5) patients at discharge developed clinically evident thrombosis during extended low-molecular-weight heparin thromboprophylaxis. The rapid onset of the anti-PF4/heparin immune response, its transience, and the simultaneous appearance of antibodies of different classes with no IgM precedence suggest short-term activation of B cells that have previously undergone Ig-class switching even without previous pharmacologic heparin exposure.
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