Plasma levels of the immunomodulatory cytokine interleukin-10 during normal human pregnancy: a longitudinal study

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Pregnancy is proposed to be a Th2 phenomenon, where Th2 cytokines inhibit Th1 responses to improve foetal survival. The importance of interleukin-10 (IL-10), an immunomodulatory cytokine produced by Th2 cells, in the maintenance of normal pregnancy is becoming increasingly apparent. In a longitudinal case-control study, the physiological effect of pregnancy on plasma IL-10 was investigated. The plasma concentration of IL-10 was determined using an ELISA technique in 99 pregnant women sampled at 12, 20 and 35 weeks of gestation, 38 non-pregnant control subjects sampled in parallel and in a subgroup of women sampled at 3 days post-partum (n, pregnant 21, non-pregnant 21). Plasma IL-10 was significantly higher in pregnant women at 12, 20 and 35 weeks of gestation (p<0.05, p<0.01 and p<0.0001, respectively), and in mothers post-delivery (p<0.01) when compared to non-pregnant control subjects. Furthermore, there was no significant effect of gestational time on IL-10 concentration. Results from the current study suggest that elevated IL-10 is a physiological consequence of normal healthy pregnancy. These findings help clarify previous conflicting results and establish a range for plasma levels of IL-10 in normal healthy pregnancy.

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