Allergy Asthma Immunol Res.  2020 Mar;12(2):292-305. 10.4168/aair.2020.12.2.292.

Flow Cytometry for the Diagnosis of Primary Immunodeficiency Diseases: A Single Center Experience

  • 1Department of Laboratory Medicine and Genetics, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 2Department of Laboratory Medicine, Soonchunhyang University Hospital, Cheonan, Korea.
  • 3Department of Pediatrics, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 4Department of Pediatrics, Severance Children's Hospital, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 5Department of Pediatrics, Gachon University Gil Medical Center, Incheon, Korea.
  • 6Department of Medicine, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 7Green Cross Genome, Yongin, Korea.


While there is an urgent need for diagnosis and therapeutic intervention in patients with primary immunodeficiency diseases (PIDs), current genetic tests have drawbacks. We retrospectively reviewed the usefulness of flow cytometry (FCM) as a quick tool for immunophenotyping and functional assays in patients suspected to have PIDs at a single tertiary care institute.
Between January 2001 and June 2018, patients suspected of having PIDs were subjected to FCM tests, including lymphocyte subset analysis, detection of surface- or intracellular-target proteins, and functional analysis of immune cells, at Samsung Medical Center, Seoul, Korea. The genetic diagnosis was performed using Sanger or diagnostic exome sequencing.
Of 60 patients diagnosed with definite or probable PID according to the European Society of Immune Deficiencies criteria, 24 patients were provided with useful information about immunological dysfunction after initial FCM testing. In 10 patients, the PID diagnosis was based on abnormal findings in FCM testing without genetic tests. The FCM findings provided strong evidence for the diagnosis of severe combined immunodeficiency (n = 6), X-linked chronic granulomatous diseases (CGD) (n = 6), leukocyte adhesion deficiency type 1 (n = 3), X-linked agammaglobulinemia (n = 11), autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome-FASLG (n = 1), and familial hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis type 2 (n = 1), and probable evidence for autosomal recessive-CGD (n = 2), autosomal dominant-hyper-immunoglobulin E (IgE)-syndrome (n = 1), and STAT1 gain-of-function mutation (n = 1). In PIDs derived from PIK3CD (n = 2), LRBA (n = 2), and CTLA4 mutations (n = 3), the FCM test provided useful evidence of immune abnormalities and a tool for treatment monitoring.
The initial application of FCM, particularly with known protein targets on immune cells, would facilitate the timely diagnosis of PIDs and thus would support clinical decisions and improve the clinical outcome.


Primary immunodeficiency; diagnosis; phenotype; flow cytometry; genetic testing

MeSH Terms

Flow Cytometry*
Genetic Testing
Granulomatous Disease, Chronic
Lymphocyte Subsets
Lymphohistiocytosis, Hemophagocytic
Retrospective Studies
Severe Combined Immunodeficiency
Tertiary Healthcare
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