Objective: The objective of our study was to correlate the interleukin-6 (IL-6) concentrations detected in patient-collected specimens with provider-collected specimens and compare the reproducibility of the methods.
Study design: All enrolled participants underwent pelvic examination with collection of cytokine samples by the provider and also collected samples themselves using vaginal swabs. The order of sample collection was randomly assigned. All samples were frozen at -80 degrees C for batch analysis. A commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay was used to determine the concentrations of IL-6 in all samples.
Results: IL-6 concentrations from wicks and swabs were correlated in a linear fashion (r = 0.67, P < 0.001). IL-6 concentrations in the two swabs (r = 0.94, P < 0.001) and the two wicks (r = 0.71, P < 0.001) were correlated in a linear fashion, although there was more variability in wick specimens.
Conclusion: IL-6 concentrations can be reproducibly measured using either method. The ease of patient swab collection and the correlation with provider-collected specimens may make frequent assessment of the vaginal cytokine environment more acceptable to patients.