We studied the correlation between interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β), tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and interferon gamma (IFN-γ) in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and clinical/laboratory findings in children with aseptic meningitis. In 19/27 patients (70%), the CSF IFN level was high at initial diagnosis, and reduced to a low or undetectable level during the convalescent phase (5-14 days later) of the disease. There were no differences in IL-1β and TNF-α levels between the acute and convalescent phase of the patients. The serum IFN-γ levels in the patients, which were simultaneously examined were undetectable in the acute phase. When we compared the clinical/laboratory findings between the 29 patients with detectable CSF IFN-γ level and the 21 patients with an undetectable CSF IFN-γ level in the acute phase, the former demonstrated higher body temperature (P<0.01), and higher cell number and protein level in the CSF (P<0.05) than the latter. On the other hand, there were no significant differences in the duration of meningeal signs, the titre of C-reactive protein, and the peripheral leucocyte count between the two groups. By the Spearman's rank sum test, the CSF IFN-γ levels correlated more definitively with the severity of febrile episode (maximal body temperature, duration of fever and body temperature at the first lumbar tap), and the cell number and protein level in the CSF. These results suggest that IFN-γ produced in the inflamed intrathecal space may be associated with the pathogenesis of aseptic meningitis, especially the production of fever.
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