Serum levels of interleukin 6 in recently hospitalized tick-borne encephalitis patients correlate with age, but not with disease outcome

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Infection with many encephalitic viruses is associated with the induction of the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin (IL)-6. In some situations, induction of high levels of this cytokine is associated with a protective response, but in others it can be linked to tissue damage and disease. In the studies reported here, levels of serum IL-6 and virus-specific antibodies were measured on admission to hospital and correlated with clinical outcomes. Only some patients demonstrated raised levels of serum IL-6, and there was no correlation between high levels of this cytokine and either gender or the severity of clinical disease. A statistically significant association between raised IL-6 and age was observed, with all individuals below the age of 26 showing normal levels of serum IL-6, regardless of clinical presentation. Furthermore, not all patients had detectable levels of virus-specific serum immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies, but an inverse and statistically significant correlation between raised IL-6 levels and IgG titre was observed. Consequently, serum levels of IL-6 cannot be used as a reliable indicator of disease outcome.

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