Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have been associated with brain inflammation as indicated by microglia activation, as well as brain expression and increased plasma levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF). Here we report that serum levels of IL-6 and TNF were elevated (61.95 ± 94.76 pg ml(-1) and 313.8 ± 444.3 pg ml(-1), respectively) in the same cohort of patients with elevated serum levels of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and neurotensin (NT), while IL-9, IL-31 and IL-33 were not different from controls. The elevated CRH and NT levels did not change after treatment with a luteolin-containing dietary formulation. However, the mean serum IL-6 and TNF levels decreased significantly (P=0.036 and P=0.015, respectively) at the end of the treatment period (26 weeks) as compared with levels at the beginning; these decreases were strongly associated with children whose behavior improved the most after luteolin formulation treatment. Our results indicate that there are distinct subgroups of children within the ASDs that may be identifiable through serum levels of IL-6 and TNF and that these cytokines may constitute distinct prognostic markers for at least the beneficial effect of luteolin formulation.