Cytokines as mediators for or effectors against rotavirus disease in children

Clin Diagn Lab Immunol. 2003 Nov;10(6):995-1001. doi: 10.1128/cdli.10.6.995-1001.2003.


Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe gastroenteritis in young children, but the pathogenesis and immunity of this disease are not completely understood. To examine the host response to acute infection, we collected paired serum specimens from 30 children with rotavirus diarrhea and measured the levels of nine cytokines (interleukin-1beta [IL-1beta], IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12, gamma interferon [IFN-gamma], and tumor necrosis factor alpha [TNF-alpha]) using a microsphere-based Luminex Flowmetrix system. Patients with acute rotavirus infection had elevated median levels of seven cytokines in serum, and of these, the levels of three (IL-6, IL-10, and IFN-gamma) were significantly (P < 0.05) higher than those in serum from control children without diarrhea. Patients with fever had significantly (P < 0.05) higher levels of IL-6 in serum than control children, and those with fever and more episodes of diarrhea had significantly (P < 0.05) higher levels of TNF-alpha than those without fever and with fewer episodes of diarrhea. We further demonstrated a negative association (P < 0.05) between the levels of IL-2 and the number of stools on the day on which the first blood sample was collected. Finally, patients with vomiting had significantly (P < 0.05) lower levels of IFN-gamma than those without vomiting. Our pilot study provides evidence that the types and magnitudes of cytokine responses to rotavirus infection in children influence or reflect the clinical outcome of disease. These findings suggest that certain cytokines may play an important role in the pathogenesis of and the protection against rotavirus disease in children and, consequently, may provide directions and insights that could prove critical to the prevention or treatment of this important disease.

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cytokines / blood*
  • Diarrhea / blood
  • Female
  • Fever / blood
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Interferon-gamma / blood
  • Interleukin-10 / blood
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rotavirus Infections / blood
  • Rotavirus Infections / etiology
  • Rotavirus Infections / immunology*


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interleukin-10
  • Interferon-gamma