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Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2008;30(1):53-70. doi: 10.1080/08923970701812332 .

Immune activation by a sterile aqueous extract of Cordyceps sinensis: mechanism of action.

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Department of Pathology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


Cordyceps sinensis is a fungus that has been used for over 2,000 years in China as a treatment for a variety of conditions including infectious diseases. The available evidence suggests a hypothesis that any efficacy of C. sinensis as an anti-infective therapeutic would be related to a role as an activator of innate immune responses. The objectives of this study were first to investigate the ability of C. sinensis to activate pro-inflammatory responses in macrophages in vitro and induce protective responses against intracellular pathogens in vivo, and second to characterize a method of action. We found that C. sinensis activates murine macrophages to produce a variety of pro-inflammatory cytokines. IFN-gamma synergizes with C. sinensis to amplify this response. Bacterial endotoxin contamination was ruled out as a potential artefact. The evidence presented in this study supports a hypothesis that C. sinensis activates macrophages by engaging Toll-like receptors and inducing mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways characteristic of inflammatory stimuli.

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