Clinical significance of IL-18, IL-15, IL-12 and TNF-alpha measurement in rheumatoid arthritis

Clin Rheumatol. 2006 Jul;25(4):448-52. doi: 10.1007/s10067-005-0106-0. Epub 2005 Dec 14.


The aim of the study was to evaluate the clinical significance of serum (S) and synovial fluid (SF) interleukin (IL)-18, IL-15, IL-12 and the tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) measurements in relation to laboratory and clinical measures of disease activity of patients with active rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Sixty-four patients with RA and 25 patients with osteoarthritis (OA) were included in this study. RA activity was determined using the Disease Activity Score (DAS) 28 index. Concentrations of IL-18, IL-15, IL-12 and TNF-alpha were measured by ELISA. Serum C-reactive protein (CRP) levels were also determined. Cross-sectional correlations between S and SF levels of cytokines and values of DAS 28 index were calculated. The results have shown that IL-18, IL-15, IL-12 and TNF-alpha levels in S and SF of patients with RA were significantly higher than the levels obtain from patients with OA (p<0.01). Significantly higher levels of IL-18, IL-15 and TNF-alpha were found in the SF compared to the S of patients with RA (p<0.01). Significantly higher S and SF levels of all four cytokines and serum CRP values were found in RA patients with high disease activity (DAS 28>5.1) compared to those with mild (DAS 28>3.2) and low disease activity (DAS 28>2.6) (p<0.01). Serum and SF concentrations of all four cytokines positively correlated with DAS 28 index values, i.e., disease activity. A poor correlation was found for S and SF IL-12 whereas the highest coefficient of correlation was found for SF IL-18 (r=0.879, p<0.01), and SF TNF-alpha (r=0.827, p<0.01) and disease activity in this study. Strong correlation was found between SF TNF-alpha and SF IL-18 levels (r=0.732, p<0.01). In conclusion, SF IL-18 and TNF-alpha levels in RA patients are good indicators of disease activity. The results obtained support the use of the DAS in clinical practice as a reliable method in assessing disease activity in RA patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / blood*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-12 / blood*
  • Interleukin-15 / blood*
  • Interleukin-18 / blood*
  • Male
  • Osteoarthritis / blood
  • Osteoarthritis / immunology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Synovial Fluid / chemistry
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • Interleukin-15
  • Interleukin-18
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interleukin-12