In order to clarify the clinical significance of serum interleukin 4 (IL-4) levels, we measured serum IL-4 concentrations in allergic and non-allergic children using a highly sensitive sandwich ELISA. The limit of detection of the assay was 0.15 pg/ml in serum samples. Serum IL-4 was detected in 96.3% (53/55) of non-allergic controls, in 92.9% (183/197) of allergic children, in 70% (7/10) of cord blood samples and in 86.7% (26/30) of neonates. The IL-4 levels in sera from non-allergic controls were relatively constant during the ages examined and all samples were under 1.5 pg/ml. In allergic children, the serum levels of IL-4 were significantly elevated, particularly at age 13-24 months. The serum levels of IL-4 did not differ in children with different clinical manifestations of allergy, such as bronchial asthma, and atopic dermatitis. The serum level of soluble CD23 (sCD23) showed an age-dependent change in allergic and non-allergic children and was significantly higher in allergic than in non-allergic infants aged 7 to 12 months, but not in other age groups. There was no significant correlation among serum levels of IL-4, sCD23 and IgE.
Conclusion: It is suggested that the measurement of serum IL-4 and sCD23 is helpful in the examination of allergic patients in infancy and early childhood, but neither the serum level of IL-4 nor sCD23 directly reflects in vivo IgE production.