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BACKGROUND: The pro-inflammatory cytokines, interleukin (IL)-18 and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNFalpha) may play a role in coronary heart disease (CHD). We aimed to extend data on their relationships to the risk of CHD in generally healthy populations. METHODS: During 5.5years follow-up in the Fletcher Challenge general population cohort there were 256 CHD cases, and 615 controls were matched for age and sex. Baseline plasma levels of IL-18 and TNFalpha were related to CHD risk in available samples (77%). RESULTS: Plasma levels of IL-18 (11% increase in mean, p=0.01) and TNFalpha (10% increase in mean p=0.024) were significantly elevated in CHD cases versus controls. In univariable models IL-18 was associated with CHD risk (odds ratio [OR] upper third to lower third, 1.63; 95% CI 1.08, 2.46), but TNFalpha was not (OR 1.33; 95% CI 0.87, 2.02).After adjusting for major CHD risk factors and CRP, the association of IL-18 with CHD risk was attenuated (OR 1.69; 95% CI 0.94, 3.03). CONCLUSIONS: IL-18, but not TNFalpha, had a non-negligible association with CHD risk, although the association of IL-18 with risk was weak after full adjustment. These cytokines may play a role in CHD pathology, but may not be robust risk biomarkers.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





94 - 98


Case-Control Studies Coronary Disease/*genetics Follow-Up Studies *Genetic Predisposition to Disease Humans Interleukin-18/*genetics New Zealand Odds Ratio Prospective Studies Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha/*genetics