Enhanced interleukin-18 levels in the peripheral blood of children with coeliac disease.

Research paper by H H Lettesjö, T T Hansson, A A Bergqvist, J J Grönlund, A A Dannaeus

Indexed on: 21 Dec '04Published on: 21 Dec '04Published in: Clinical & Experimental Immunology


Coeliac disease (CoD) is a small intestinal disorder characterized by villous atrophy, crypt cell hyperplasia and an increased production of T helper cell type 1 (Th1) cytokines. Interleukin (IL)-18 is a pro-inflammatory cytokine that has a crucial role in maintaining the Th1 response. In this study, the serum levels of IL-18 were measured in children with CoD or other gastrointestinal diseases in order to evaluate the possibility of using IL-18 as a disease activity marker. IL-18 levels were higher in samples from CoD patients [median 443 pg/ml (148-885)] compared to healthy controls [median 205 pg/ml (11-379)], P <0.05. In contrast, the levels of IL-18 were not enhanced significantly in the serum from patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) [median 324 pg/ml (207-546)] or in the disease control group [median 303 pg/ml (2-689)]. In CoD patients, after 2 weeks of gluten challenge (GC), serum IL-18 was unchanged [median 268 pg/ml (59-458)] compared to patients on a gluten-free diet [median 220 pg/ml (53-600)], while IL-18 was increased after 12 weeks of GC [median 551 pg/ml (94-952)], P <0.01. The IL-18 levels correlated with IgA anti-transglutaminase antibody levels (rs=0.59, P=0.016) in serum from untreated CoD patients, and IL-18 also followed the degree of small intestinal villous atrophy in 12 out of 19 CoD patients. Our results support the view that serum IL-18 concentrations in children with CoD follow disease activity, suggesting a role for IL-18 in the induction of an inflammatory Th1-response after gluten exposure.