Date: 06 Dec 2005

Increase in macrophage migration inhibitory factor levels in lacrimal fluid of patients with severe atopic dermatitis

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Background and aims of the study

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder that often involves some ophthalmic features. Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is a proinflammatory cytokine that is associated with the generation of cell-mediated immune responses. Although serum MIF levels may be elevated in severe atopic dermatitis, the quantity of MIF in regional ocular fluid remains unknown. We measured MIF levels in tears (lacrimal fluid) of patients with atopic dermatitis.

Patients and methods

Tear samples were collected from 16 patients with atopic dermatitis, 10 patients with allergic conjunctivitis, and 15 healthy control subjects. The clinical severity of atopic dermatitis was evaluated according to the Scoring Atopic Dermatitis (SCORAD) index. The index was calculated by summing the following scores: extent criteria, intensity criteria, and subjective symptoms. Macrophage migration inhibitory factor levels were determined by a human MIF enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. All comparisons were two-tailed, and P values <0.01 were considered as statistically significant.


The mean MIF concentration in lacrimal fluid collected from healthy control subjects was 0.69±0.2 ng/ml. The mean tear MIF levels were 17.87±6.3 ng/ml in moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis (SCORAD≥15, P=0.002), 0.93±0.08 ng/ml in mild atopic dermatitis (SCORAD<15), and 2.76±0.86 ng/ml in allergic conjunctivitis (P=0.008).


A proinflammatory cytokine MIF level was elevated in tears as well as serum in cases of severe atopic dermatitis. These results suggest that MIF may play an important role in the induction or enhancement of ophthalmic features related to severe atopic dermatitis.