A chronic low-grade inflammatory state appears to be a relevant mechanism in the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder. Pro-inflammatory cytokines may influence disease course and individual symptomatology; and biological markers correlating with illness features may be of utility in clinical decision making during euthymia.
51 euthymic outpatients with Bipolar-I-Disorder (BD-I) and 93 healthy controls (HC) were investigated. Comparisons between groups, and correlations with clinical features were performed. Serum concentrations of interleukin-1β (IL-1β), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), and soluble interleukin-6 receptor (sIL-6R) were evaluated by ELISA under highly standardized conditions. Clinical features included duration of illness, number of previous suicide attempts and mood episodes (manic, hypomanic, depressive), scores of the Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS), the Inventory of Depressive Symptoms (IDS-30), the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), and the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF).
No significant difference in serum concentrations of IL-1β, TNF-α, and sIL-6R between BD-I euthymic patients and HC could be identified. Among euthymic BD-I patients, a positive correlation of r = 0.47 (p = 0.004) between levels of IL-1β and IDS-30 score was identified.
The design was cross-sectional, most patients were receiving medication, only 3 cytokines were assessed, only euthymic BD-I patients were evaluated.
The findings suggest that elevated pro-inflammatory cytokine concentrations are likely state rather than trait markers of BD-I. It also seems unlikely that cytokine concentrations are clinically informative interepisode. An inflammatory component might possibly be involved in the pathophysiology of subsyndromic depression in BD-I, and conceivably of bipolar depression per se.

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