To investigate the prevalence of thyroid autoantibodies in very old subjects, we assayed sera from 34 healthy centenarians (7 men, 27 women; age range 100-108 years) for these antibodies. There was a clear age-dependent increase in prevalence of thyroid autoantibodies in sera from 549 control subjects aged 7-85 years, prevalence in 40 subjects aged 70-85 being significantly greater (p less than 0.001, chi 2) than that in 436 subjects aged less than 50. By contrast, prevalence of thyroid autoantibodies in centenarians was not significantly different from that in controls aged less than 50. Cytofluorimetric analysis of peripheral blood lymphocytes showed a striking age-dependent decrease in total and CD5+B cells (without changes in their ratio), which reached its nadir in centenarians. The age-dependent increase in prevalence of thyroid autoantibodies in the elderly is not seen after the ninth decade of life. What relation this characteristic has to derangement of circulating B cells is unknown.
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