Background: Immunoregulatory properties of cytokines may mediate disordered inflammatory events in inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs). On the basis of data obtained in experimental colitis, the hypothesis has been advanced that in IBD the balance between interleukin-1 (IL-1) and the naturally occurring IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra) might influence disease expression.
Objective: We studied the profiles of IL-1ra and acute phase proteins produced by activated macrophages to determine whether the level of IL-1ra in peripheral blood is a marker of disease activity in IBD and a possible differential diagnostic marker.
Patients and methods: Levels of IL-1ra, serum neopterin, urinary neopterin, alpha 1-glycoprotein and C-reactive protein (CRP) were measured in 80 patients with ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease or infectious colitis.
Results: Levels of IL-1ra were markedly increased in patients with active ulcerative colitis or active Crohn's disease compared with those in patients with infectious colitis. Patients with active Crohn's disease had significantly higher serum IL-1ra levels than patients with active ulcerative colitis. Moreover, a positive correlation was found between levels of C-reactive protein, alpha 1-glycoprotein, and serum neopterin and the level of IL-1ra in active Crohn's disease but not in active ulcerative colitis, strongly suggesting that the pathogenesis of the two conditions differs.
Conclusion: Levels of IL-1ra in the peripheral blood of patients with IBD are of clinical relevance, representing a potent marker of disease activity and a possible differential diagnostic marker.