The aim of this study is to determine the levels of plasma fibronectin in leprosy patients of Nigerian origin. Seventy leprosy patients, 42 men and 28 women, aged 20 to 70 years, of Mile 4 Hospital Abakalilki in Ebonyi State of Nigeria and seventy age and sex-matched apparently normal subjects were used. Some (44) of the patients were on multiple drug therapy with dapsone, rifampicin, and clofazimine as the mainline drugs. The remaining 26 patients had stable treated leprosy but were living in the colony, (on-colony). Study protocol was approved by the Ethic Committee of the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu and informed consent was obtained from all subjects before collection of data and samples was made. Plasma fibronectin was assayed by an ELISA method. The leprosy patients had mean plasma fibronectin levels of 70.51 ± 17.83 µg/ml, men 85.39 ± 18.0 µg/ml, women 63.19 ± 3.63 µg/ml compared with the mean control value of 286.2 ± 130 µg/ml, men 395.5 ± 114.5 µg/ml, women 208.9 ± 71.69 µg/ml (p < 0.001). Peak control values were observed in the fifth decade of life, 40 to 49 years, and declined steadily thereafter. The peak values for the patients were observed in third decade of life, 20 to 29 years, and declined steadily with advancing age. Patients on drugs had lower fibronectin values, 71.32 ± 13.83 µg/ml, than those living on colony, 85.30 ± 20.50 µg/ml (p < 0.05). There is marked hypofibronectinaemia in leprosy patients that may be due to several possible causes. More work is needed to elucidate the exact cause(s) of hypofibronectinaemia in leprosy.
Key words: Leprosy, hypofibronectinaemia, plasma fibronectin, adhesion protein, Nigerian lepers.
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