Lower serum levels of IL-1β and IL-6 cytokines in adolescents with anorexia nervosa and their association with gut microbiota in a longitudinal study


Anorexia nervosa (AN) is an often chronic and debilitating psychiatric disease whose etiology is not completely understood. Recently, a potential role of inflammation has emerged in other psychiatric diseases, such as depression, PTSD and schizophrenia. The first results in adults with AN seemed to confirm a low-grade proinflammatory state until recent studies presented more differential findings. Studying adolescents with a shorter illness duration and fewer confounding factors might help elucidate the role of inflammation in the underlying pathophysiology of AN; however, the few available studies in adolescents remain ambiguous, and no longitudinal data are available in this age range.


TNF-α serum levels were significantly elevated in patients with AN at admission, while IL-1β and IL-6 levels were lower at admission and discharge than in HC. After treatment, we also found significantly elevated levels of IL-6 Rα compared to HC, while IL-15 did not show significant changes. Exploratory analyses revealed positive associations of cytokine and genus-level changes between admission and discharge for IL-1β (Bacteroides) and IL-15 (Romboutsia), and negative associations for IL-15 (Anaerostipes) and TNF-α (uncultured Lachnospiraceae).


We confirmed a previous finding of elevated levels of TNF-α also in adolescents with AN; however, the reduced IL-1β and IL-6 levels differed from the mostly increased levels found in adults. A mixed pro- and anti-inflammatory state appears to be present in adolescents, potentially due to their shorter illness duration. The gut microbiota, with its regulatory function on cytokine production, might play a role in mediating these inflammatory processes in AN and could offer targets for new therapeutic approaches.


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