Longitudinal changes of serum cytokines in patients with chronic low back pain and Modic changes

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2023 Apr;31(4):543-547. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2023.01.001. Epub 2023 Jan 12.


Objectives: To explore serum cytokine levels over time in patients with chronic low back pain (cLBP) and Modic changes (MCs), difference in change between treatment groups in the Antibiotics in Modic Changes (AIM) study and associations between change in cytokines and low back pain.

Methods: Serum concentrations of 39 cytokines were measured at baseline and 1 year from 73 participants in the AIM study; 30 randomized to placebo, 43 to Amoxicillin. Low back pain intensity was measured by numeric rating scale. Change in cytokine levels over time were assessed by paired t-tests. Difference in change in cytokine levels between treatment groups and associations between changes in LBP and cytokine levels were assessed by linear regression models. Networks of cytokine changes in each treatment groups were explored by Pearson's correlations.

Results: Five cytokines changed from baseline to 1 year, (mean change, log transformed values with CI) C-X-C motif chemokine ligand (CXCL) 10 (IP-10) (0.11 (0.01-0.20)), CXCL13 (0.61 (0.00-0.12)), C-C motif chemokine ligand (CCL)26 (0.05 (0.01-0.1)), granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) (-0.12 (-0.23 to 0.00)) and CXCL11 (0.12 (0.03-0.22)). Treatment group only influenced change in CCL21 (β 0.07 (0.01-0.12)), and IL-6 (β -0.17 (-0.30 to -0.03)). Change in CXCL13 (β 2.43 (0.49-4.38)), CCL27 (β 3.07 (0.46-5.69)), IL-8 (β 1.83 (0.08-3.58)) and CCL19 (β 3.10 (0.86-5.43)) were associated with change in LBP. The correlation networks of cytokine changes demonstrate small differences between treatment groups.

Conclusions: Cytokine levels are relatively stable over time in our sample, with little difference between treatment groups. Some cytokines may be associated with LBP intensity. The differences between the correlation networks suggest that long-term Amoxicillin-treatment may have longstanding effects to be further explored.

Keywords: Antibiotics; Cytokines; Inflammation; Low back pain; Modic changes.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Amoxicillin / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Chemokines
  • Chronic Pain* / drug therapy
  • Cytokines
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Low Back Pain* / drug therapy
  • Lumbar Vertebrae
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging


  • Cytokines
  • Ligands
  • Amoxicillin
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Chemokines