Reactive lymphocytes or variant lymphocytes are cytotoxic (CD8+) lymphocytes that become large as a result of antigen stimulation. Typically, they can be more than 30 µm in diameter with varying size and shape.
The nucleus of a reactive lymphocyte can be round, elliptic, indented, cleft, or folded. The cytoplasm is often abundant and can be basophilic. Vacuoles and/or azurophilic granules are also sometimes present. Most often, the cytoplasm is gray, pale blue, or deep blue in colour.
Reactive lymphocytes are usually associated with viral illnesses, but they can also be present as a result of drug reactions (such as phenytoin), immunizations, radiation, and hormonal causes (such as stress and Addison's disease), as well as some autoimmune disorders (such as rheumatoid arthritis).
Some pathogen-related causes include:
- Epstein–Barr virus
- Toxoplasma gondi
- Treponema pallidum (syphilis)
- Streptococcus agalactiae (group B streptococci),
- Hepatitis C
- Cabot, Richard C.; Scully, Robert E.; Mark, Eugene J.; McNeely, William F.; McNeely, Betty U.; Rosenfield, Cathy G.; Kaplan, Mark A. (June 1994). "Case records of the Massachusetts General Hospital. Weekly clinicopathological exercises. Case 24-1994. A two-year-old boy with thrombocytopenia, leukocytosis, and hepatosplenomegaly". N. Engl. J. Med. 330 (24): 1739–46. PMID 8190136. doi:10.1056/NEJM199406163302408.
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- Review Article: The Atypical Lymphocyte- International Pediatrics Volume 18, No. 1; Michael W. Simon.
- Educational Commentary: Blood Cell Identification - American Society for Clinical Pathology article.
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