Systemic and Mucosal Concentrations of Nine Cytokines Among Individuals with Neisseria gonorrhoeae infection in Nairobi Kenya

Anne Maina, Marianne Mureithi, John Kiiru, Gunturu Revathi

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Introduction: The human-restricted sexually transmitted Neisseria gonorrhoeae (NG) has been shown to modulate the immune response against it and consequently the cytokines produced. The levels of cytokines in NG infection in the African population have not been well described. We aimed to quantify the systemic and mucosal cytokines in NG infection. Methods: This was a comparative cross-sectional study. Levels of nine cytokines (IL-1β, IL-2, IL-4, 1L-6, 1L-10, 1L-12p70, IL-17A, TNFα and IFN-γ) were measured from plasma and genital samples (urethral swabs in men and cervicovaginal lavage in women) from 61 Neisseria gonorrhoeae infected individuals seeking treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at Casino Health Centre in Nairobi, Kenya. A comparative group of 61 NG-uninfected individuals, seeking treatment at the same facility but with laboratory-confirmed negative Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Chlamydia trachomatis (CT), Mycoplasma genitalium (MG) and Trichomonas vaginalis(TV) was also included. The Mann-Whitney U test was used to compare the cytokine levels between NG-infected and uninfected individuals. Data was analyzed using STATA ver. 15.1. Results: Overall, systemic IL-6, TNF-α and IL-10 were elevated while genital IL-10 and TNF-α were lower in NG positive participants. On subgroup analysis disaggregated by sex, the levels of genital IL-1b and IL-6 and systemic IL-6 were elevated in NG-infected men. None of the genital cytokines were elevated in NG-infected women, while all systemic cytokines, except IFN-γ, were elevated in NG-infected women. Conclusion: Neisseria gonorrhoeae induced the production of different cytokines in men and women, with men having a pro-inflammatory genital response. These differences should be taken into consideration during development of various interventions e.g. vaccine development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12
JournalAAS Open Research
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Kenya
  • mucosal cytokines
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae
  • STIs
  • systemic cytokines


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