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Atherosclerosis. 2015 Mar;239(1):125-30. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2014.12.046. Epub 2014 Dec 23.

Plasma IL-5 concentration and subclinical carotid atherosclerosis.

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Atherosclerosis Research Unit, Department of Medicine Solna, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. Electronic address:
Atherosclerosis Research Unit, Department of Medicine Solna, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Atherosclerosis Research Unit, Department of Medicine Solna, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden; Science for Life Laboratory, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Dipartimento di Scienze Farmacologiche e Biomolecolari, Università di Milano, Italy; Centro Cardiologico Monzino, IRCCS, Milan, Italy.
Centro Cardiologico Monzino, IRCCS, Milan, Italy.
Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Danderyd University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.
Division of Cardiovascular Epidemiology, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland.
Foundation for Research in Health, Exercise and Nutrition, Kuopio Research Institute of Exercise Medicine, Kuopio, Finland.
Department of Medicine, University Medical Center Groningen and University of Groningen, The Netherlands.
Internal Medicine, Angiology and Arteriosclerosis Diseases, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy.
Assistance Publique - Hopitaux de Paris, Service Endocrinologie-Metabolisme, Groupe Hôpitalier Pitie-Salpetriere, Unités de Prévention Cardiovasculaire, Paris, France.
Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Division of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, University of Umeå, Sweden.
Centre for Cardiovascular Genetics, University College London, United Kingdom.



Genetic variants robustly associated with coronary artery disease were reported in the vicinity of the interleukin (IL)-5 locus, and animal studies suggested a protective role for IL-5 in atherosclerosis. Therefore, we set this work to explore IL-5 as a plasma biomarker for early subclinical atherosclerosis, as determined by measures of baseline severity and change over time of carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT).


We used biobank and databases of IMPROVE, a large European prospective cohort study of high-risk individuals (n = 3534) free of clinically overt cardiovascular disease at enrollment, in whom composite and segment-specific measures of cIMT were recorded at baseline and after 15 and 30 months. IL-5 was measured with an immunoassay in plasma samples taken at baseline.


IL-5 levels were lower in women than in men, lower in the South than in North of Europe, and showed positive correlations with most established risk factors. IL-5 showed significant inverse relationships with cIMT change over time in the common carotid segment in women, but no significant relationships to baseline cIMT in either men or women.


Our results suggest that IL-5 may be part of protective mechanisms operating in early atherosclerosis, at least in women. However, the relationships are weak and whereas IL-5 has been proposed as a potential molecular target to treat allergies, it is difficult to envisage such a scenario in coronary artery disease.


Atherosclerosis; Coronary artery disease; Cytokines; Interleukin-5; Intima-media thickness

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