Background  The place of cell-mediated immunity and cytokines in the immunopathogenesis of pemphigus vulgaris (PV) has not been fully established.

Objective  To assess the serum levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, Interleukine-6 (IL-6) and Interleukine-8 (IL-8), in PV patients before and after therapy, to evaluate the influence of therapy on the serum cytokine levels.

Methods  Sixty-six newly diagnosed PV patients enrolled into the study. The serum levels of IL-8 and IL-6 were measured in 66 and 64 patients, respectively. According to the extent of skin and mucosal involvement, the patients were divided into two groups namely mild and severe. The serum levels of cytokines were measured using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) method before and after 4 weeks of prednisolone plus azathioprine therapy.

Results  In 64 patients studied for the serum level of IL-6, the median IL-6 level was significantly decreased from 1.6 to 0.9 pg/mL by therapy (P-value = 0.001). Segregating the patients according to the severity of the disease, the serum level of IL-6 did not differ significantly by therapy in patients with a mild disease. However, in patients with a severe disease the median serum level of IL-6 decreased significantly from 1.8 to 0.9 pg/mL after therapy (P-value = 0.001). No significant changes were found in the IL-8 level by treatment.

Conclusion  The significant decrease in the IL-6 level after therapy suggests that blocking of IL-6 could have therapeutic benefits for the treatment of PV, particularly in severe forms.