The term “inflammation” is certainly one of the oldest medical terms still in use. However, its meaning has changed over the centuries. This work gives a historical and critical review of the concept of inflammation, with special reference to kidney diseases. Over time the definition of inflammation has shifted from a pure collection of symptoms to a histopathological definition, characterized by the tissue “inflammatory infiltrates” and different subcategories according to the cell type involved. The advantages of this classification are the generally good response to corticosteroids (with only a few exceptions) and the availability of specific drugs for each inflammatory infiltrate. Finally, a “molecular” definition of inflammation has arisen, where the inflammatory infiltrates make room to a plethora of plasma mediators. The authors show that the use of plasma biomarkers as a tool to define inflammatory state leads to net inflation of the number of “inflammatory” diseases – an effect that shows clearly in the field of nephrology.
Keywords: inflammation, acute phase proteins, nephritis, immune suppressors