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Mol Med. 2008 Sep-Oct;14(9-10):553-60. doi: 10.2119/2007-00132.Finnerty.

Temporal cytokine profiles in severely burned patients: a comparison of adults and children.

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  • 1Shriners Hospitals for Children, 815 Market Street, Galveston, TX 77550, USA.


A severe burn leads to hypermetabolism and catabolism resulting in compromised function and structural changes of essential organs. The release of cytokines has been implicated in this hypermetabolic response. The severity of the hypermetabolic response following burn injury increases with age, as does the mortality rate. Due to the relationship between the hypermetabolic and inflammatory responses, we sought to compare the plasma cytokine profiles following a severe burn in adults and in children. We enrolled 25 adults and 24 children who survived a flame burn covering more than 20% of total body surface area (TBSA). The concentrations of 22 cytokines were measured using the Linco multiplex array system (St. Charles, MO, USA). Large perturbations in the expression of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines were seen following thermal injury. During the first week following burn injury, IFN-gamma, IL-10, IL-17, IL-4, IL-6, and IL-8 were detected at significantly higher levels in adults compared with children, P < 0.05. Significant differences were measured during the second week post-burn for IL-1beta (higher in children) and IL-5 (higher in adults), P < 0.05. IL-18 was more abundant in children compared with adults during the third week post-burn, P < 0.05. Between post-burn d 21 and d 66, IL-1alpha was detected at higher concentrations in pediatric compared with adult patients, P < 0.05. Only GM-CSF expression was significantly different at all time points; it was detected at lower levels in pediatric patients, P < 0.05. Eotaxin, G-CSF, IL-13, IL-15, IP-10, MCP-1, and MIP-1alpha were detected at significantly different concentrations in adult compared with pediatric patients at multiple time points, P < 0.05. There were no differences in IL-12, IL-2, IL-7, or TNF levels in adult compared with pediatric burn patients at any of these time points. Following severe flame burns, the cytokine profiles in pediatric patients differ compared with those in adult patients, which may provide insight with respect to the higher morbidity rate in adults. Furthermore, the dramatic discrepancies observed in plasma cytokine detection between children and adults suggest that these two patient populations may benefit from different therapeutic interventions to achieve attenuation of the post-burn inflammatory response.

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