Innate Immune Activation and Circulating Inflammatory Markers in Preschool Children

Front Immunol. 2022 Feb 8:12:830049. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.830049. eCollection 2021.


Early childhood is characterised by repeated infectious exposures that result in inflammatory responses by the innate immune system. In addition, this inflammatory response to infection is thought to contribute to the epidemiological evidence linking childhood infection and adult non-communicable diseases. Consequently, the relationship between innate immune responses and inflammation during early life may inform prevention of NCDs later in life. In adults, non-genetic host factors such as age, sex, and obesity, strongly impact cytokine production and circulating mediators, but data in children are lacking. Here, we assessed cytokine responses and inflammatory markers in a population of healthy preschool children (mean age 4.2 years). We studied associations between cytokines, plasma inflammatory markers and non-genetic host factors, such as sex, age, adiposity, season, and immune cell composition. Similar to adults, boys had a higher inflammatory response than girls, with IL-12p70 and IL-10 upregulated following TLR stimulation. Adiposity and winter season were associated with increased circulating inflammatory markers but not cytokine production. The inflammatory markers GlycA and hsCRP were positively associated with production of a number of cytokines and may therefore reflect innate immune function and inflammatory potential. This dataset will be informative for future prospective studies relating immune parameters to preclinical childhood NCD phenotypes.

Keywords: cytokines; human functional genomics; innate immune activation; preschool children; systemic inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cytokines
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Inflammation
  • Interleukin-12*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-12