Serum cytokine levels in infectious mononucleosis at diagnosis and convalescence

Leuk Lymphoma. 1998 Aug;30(5-6):583-9. doi: 10.3109/10428199809057570.


Infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is common worldwide. A significant number of infected individuals develop infectious mononucleosis (IM). IM is manifested in most patients as a benign disease with mild symptoms. However, serious complications may develop in a subset of patients. Because EBV-infected B lymphocytes produce various cytokines that may provide the cells with a proliferative advantage, cytokine concentrations in serum samples taken from IM patients were measured in order to identify the cytokines responsible for the clinical manifestations of the disease. The concentrations of interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta), IL-2, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), and lymphotoxin (LT) were measured using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in serum obtained from 14 IM patients during the acute phase of the disease and during convalescence, 5 patients with identical clinical manifestations who did not have IM (sick controls), and 11 healthy volunteers. It was found that the serum levels of TNF-alpha and IL-6 were significantly high in patients with acute IM compared with the serum levels in healthy individuals (P = 0.008 and P < 0.001, respectively) but returned to normal at convalescence (P = 0.009 and P = 0.005 respectively). However, whereas TNF-alpha concentrations were significantly higher (P = 0.04) in patients with acute IM than in the sick controls, no significant difference in IL-6 concentrations was found between the two groups of patients. Changes in IL-10 concentration were not statistically significant, and IL-1beta, IL-2, IL-8, and LT were detected only sporadically. The data in this study suggest that TNF-alpha may have a specific role in causing the clinical manifestations of IM. Further studies should determine the clinical significance of TNF-alpha inhibition in IM.

MeSH terms

  • Convalescence*
  • Cytokines / blood*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human
  • Humans
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / blood*
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / diagnosis*
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-6
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha