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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Immunology - Physiology - Public Health and Epidemiology - Rheumatology

Interleukin 15 Levels in Serum May Predict a Severe Disease Course in Patients with Early Arthritis
Published: Thursday, December 29, 2011
Author: Isidoro González-Álvaro et al.

by Isidoro González-Álvaro, Ana M. Ortiz, José María Alvaro-Gracia, Santos Castañeda, Belen Díaz-Sánchez, Inmaculada Carvajal, J. Alberto García-Vadillo, Alicia Humbría, J. Pedro López-Bote, Esther Patiño, Eva G. Tomero, Esther F. Vicente, Pedro Sabando, Rosario García-Vicuña


Interleukin-15 (IL-15) is thought to be involved in the physiopathological mechanisms of RA and it can be detected in the serum and the synovial fluid of inflamed joints in patients with RA but not in patients with osteoarthritis or other inflammatory joint diseases. Therefore, the objective of this work is to analyse whether serum IL-15 (sIL-15) levels serve as a biomarker of disease severity in patients with early arthritis (EA).

Methodology and Results

Data from 190 patients in an EA register were analysed (77.2% female; median age 53 years; 6-month median disease duration at entry). Clinical and treatment information was recorded systematically, especially the prescription of disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. Two multivariate longitudinal analyses were performed with different dependent variables: 1) DAS28 and 2) a variable reflecting intensive treatment. Both included sIL-15 as predictive variable and other variables associated with disease severity, including rheumatoid factor (RF) and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies (ACPA). Of the 171 patients (638 visits analysed) completing the follow-up, 71% suffered rheumatoid arthritis and 29% were considered as undifferentiated arthritis. Elevated sIL-15 was detected in 29% of this population and this biomarker did not overlap extensively with RF or ACPA. High sIL-15 levels (ß Coefficient [95% confidence interval]: 0.12 [0.06–0.18]; p<0.001) or ACPA (0.34 [0.01–0.67]; p?=?0.044) were significantly and independently associated with a higher DAS28 during follow-up, after adjusting for confounding variables such as gender, age and treatment. In addition, those patients with elevated sIL-15 had a significantly higher risk of receiving intensive treatment (RR 1.78, 95% confidence interval 1.18–2.7; p?=?0.007).


Patients with EA displaying high baseline sIL-15 suffered a more severe disease and received more intensive treatment. Thus, sIL-15 may be a biomarker for patients that are candidates for early and more intensive treatment.