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Free Radic Res Commun. 1992;16(2):99-110.

Oxidative stress in lungs of mice infected with influenza A virus.

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  • 1Institute of Veterinary Virology, University of Berne, Switzerland.


As oxidative stress has been implicated in the pathogenesis of certain viral diseases we determined antioxidant and prooxidant parameters in lungs and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) of mice infected with a lethal dose of influenza A/PR8/34 virus. Viral infection was characterized by massive infiltration of leukocytes, mainly polymorphonuclear leukocytes, into the alveolar space. The total number of BALF cells increased up to 8-fold (day 3 post-infection) and these cells appeared activated as judged by their increased rates of superoxide anion radical (O2-.) generation upon stimulation. Maximal rates of radical generation by BALF cells during the early stages of infection were 15- or 70-fold higher than those of cells from control animals when expressed per cell or total BALF cells, respectively. At the terminal stages of infection the total capacity of BALF cells to release O2-. declined to approximately 35-fold the control values. Infection also resulted in increased in vivo formation of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) within the lungs at a time that coincided with the maximal capacity of BALF cells to release O2-.. Whereas pulmonary activities of glutathione peroxidase and reductase remained unaltered, levels of ascorbate in the cell-free BALF decreased significantly during the early stages of the infection and then returned to normal levels and above, late in infection. The oxidation state of the dehydroascorbic acid/ascorbate couple increased concomitantly with the decrease in ascorbate concentrations early in infection and remained elevated throughout the infection. As assessed by the prevention of peroxyl radical-induced loss of phycoerythrin fluorescence, the total antioxidant capacity present in lung tissue homogenate from terminally ill animals was not diminished when compared to that prepared from lungs of control mice. We conclude that although early stages of influenza infection are associated with the presence of oxidative stress in the lung tissue and alveolar fluid lining the epithelial cells, this stress does not appear to overwhelm local antioxidant defenses. The results therefore do not support a direct causative role of oxidative tissue damage in the pathogenesis of influenza virus infection.

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