Background: We have recently shown that ischemic stroke causes a stress-mediator-induced long-lasting immunodepressive state in mice. Methods: Using head magnetic resonance imaging and standardized immunoassays, we prospectively investigated whether poststroke immunodepression is also seen in humans. Results: Compared to healthy volunteers (n = 30), a rapid depression of lymphocyte counts and a functional deactivation of monocytes and T helper type 1 cells was observed in acute stroke patients (SP; n = 40). Immunodepression was more pronounced in patients with severe clinical deficit or large infarction. On admission the combination of monocytic tumor necrosis factor α release ex vivo and the National Institute of Health Stroke Scale score were the best predictors for nosocomial infection, preferentially affecting older SP. Conclusion: Our data provide evidence for an immediate suppression of cell-mediated immune responses after ischemic stroke in humans.

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