Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a neurodegenerative disease due to persistent measles virus infection. Its immunopathogenesis is unknown. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, interleukin (IL)-2, IL-6, IL-10 and IL-4 concentrations were measured in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and serum samples from 30 SSPE patients and 19 control subjects by cytometric bead array. CSF and serum IFN-gamma, IL-12 and IL-18 levels were measured in 18 SSPE patients by ELISA. Serum IL-4 and IL-10 (p < 0.001), CSF IL-4 (p < 0.001) and IL-6 (p = 0.049) concentrations were lower, and serum IL-2 concentrations, higher (p = 0.001) in SSPE patients. Serum TNF-alpha and IL-6, CSF TNF-alpha, IL-10, and IL-2 concentrations were not different between SSPE and control groups. Serum IFN-gamma levels were higher in stage I and II than stage III patients (p < 0.05), whereas there was no difference between stages in terms of other cytokines. The levels of Th2-type cytokines: IL-4, IL-6 and IL-10 were suppressed in our SSPE cases. This finding, along with relatively elevated IFN-gamma and IL-2 levels, may suggest more active effector T cells compared to regulatory T cells (Treg), especially induced Treg, in early disease. High serum IL-2 concentrations might indicate peripheral Th1 activation. Discrepancies between various reports in the literature should be examined in view of the ages, stage and treatments of the patients studied. The interplay of various cytokines or cellular systems which may vary over time and between patients. Studies of treatment measures favoring the preservation of the early inflammatory response may be of interest in SSPE. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.