Cytokine responses in relation to age, gender, body mass index, Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection, and otitis media among Inuit in Greenland

Am J Hum Biol. Jan-Feb 2013;25(1):20-8. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.22332. Epub 2012 Oct 17.


Objectives: To evaluate the cytokine response pattern in Inuit in Greenland in relation to age, gender, body mass index (BMI), Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection (MTI), and otitis media (OM) to assess whether Inuit may have signs of impaired immune responsiveness to infection.

Methods: A cross-sectional health assessment was conducted among inhabitants of Maniitsoq, West Greenland, in 2009, and several health outcomes were measured. The prevalence of MTI, overweight, and obesity was assessed among 263 school children and 137 adults, and OM was assessed among the children. Cytokine responses were measured in whole blood cultures after stimulation with phytohemagglutinin or purified protein derivative (PPD). Associations between cytokine concentrations, age, gender, BMI, MTI, and OM were estimated by linear regression.

Results: Adults had generally higher cytokine concentrations than children. Children with MTI had 2.7 times higher interleukin (IL)-10 concentrations than those without (P = 0.01), and girls had 80% higher IL-10 than boys (P < 0.01) after phytohemagglutinin stimulation. Interferon (IFN)γ and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) concentrations were strongly elevated among children (P(IFNγ) < 0.001 and P(TNF) < 0.001) and adults (P(IFNγ) < 0.001 and P(TNF) <0.01) with MTI compared to those without after PPD stimulation. Adult women had significantly lower IFNγ (P = 0.03) and TNF (P = 0.04) concentrations than men. TNF was positively correlated with BMI in children (P = 0.01), and IL-10 was positively correlated with BMI in adults (P = 0.0004) after PPD stimulation.

Conclusion: We found cytokine patterns similar to those reported from other immune competent study populations. Therefore, the study does not support the suggestion that Inuit may have impaired immune reactivity to infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cytokines / blood*
  • Female
  • Greenland
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / blood
  • Interleukin-10 / blood
  • Inuits*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Obesity / blood*
  • Otitis Media / blood*
  • Phytohemagglutinins / pharmacology
  • Sex Factors
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Tetanus Toxoid / pharmacology
  • Tuberculin / pharmacology
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / blood*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / ethnology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factors / blood
  • Young Adult


  • Cytokines
  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • Tetanus Toxoid
  • Tuberculin
  • Tumor Necrosis Factors
  • Interleukin-10
  • Interferon-gamma