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Cytokine. 2012 Oct;60(1):34-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cyto.2012.06.236. Epub 2012 Jul 16.

Secondhand smoke exposure and serum cytokine levels in healthy children.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, CO, USA. karen.wilson@childrenscolorado.org



Exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) is associated with morbidity in children. Alterations in immune responses may explain this relationship, but have not been well-studied in children. Our objective was to determine the association between SHS exposure and serum cytokine levels in healthy children.


We recruited 1-6 year old patients undergoing routine procedures. A parent interview assessed medical history and SHS exposure. Children with asthma were excluded. Blood was collected under anesthesia. We used Luminex Multiplex Assays to test for a panel of cytokines; cotinine was determined using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Children were categorized as no, intermediate, or high exposure. A mixed-effects model was fit to determine differences in cytokines by exposure level.


Of the 40 children recruited, 65% (N=26) had SHS exposure; 16 intermediate, and 10 high. There were no differences by demographics. In bivariate analyses, children exposed to SHS had lower concentrations of IL-1β, IL-4, IL-5, and IFN-γ than those with no exposure. In the mixed-effects model, children with any SHS exposure had significantly lower concentrations of IL-1β (0.554 pg/mL vs. 0.249 pg/mL) and IFN-γ (4.193 pg/mL vs. 0.816 pg/mL), and children with high exposure had significantly lower mean concentrations of IL-4 (8.141 pg/mL vs. 0.135 pg/mL) than children with no exposure.


This study suggests that SHS exposure decreases expression of some pro-inflammatory cytokines in SHS exposed children, including IFN-γ. Further research to describe the acute and chronic effects of SHS on the immune systems of children is needed.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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