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J Nutr. 2007 May;137(5):1236-43.

Diet-induced obese mice have increased mortality and altered immune responses when infected with influenza virus.

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Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


Obesity is associated with an impaired immune response, an increased susceptibility to bacterial infection, and a chronic increase in proinflammatory cytokines such as IL-6 and TNFalpha. However, few studies have examined the effect of obesity on the immune response to viral infections. Because infection with influenza is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, we investigated the effect of obesity on early immune responses to influenza virus exposure. Diet-induced obese and lean control C57BL/6 mice were infected with influenza A/PR8/34, and lung pathology and immune responses were examined at d 0 (uninfected), 3, and 6, postinfection. Following infection, diet-induced obese mice had a significantly higher mortality rate than the lean controls and elevated lung pathology. Antiviral and proinflammatory cytokine mRNA production in the lungs of the infected mice was markedly different between obese and lean mice. IFNalpha and beta were only minimally expressed in the infected lungs of obese mice and there was a notable delay in expression of the proinflammatory cytokines IL-6 and TNFalpha. Additionally, obese mice had a substantial reduction in NK cell cytotoxicity. These data indicate that obesity inhibits the ability of the immune system to appropriately respond to influenza infection and suggests that obesity may lead to increased morbidity and mortality from viral infections.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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