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Phytother Res. 2010 Jun;24(6):810-6. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2991.

Effects of Echinacea extracts on macrophage antiviral activities.

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Biology Department, Drake University, Des Moines, IA, USA.


Type I interferons are a class of cytokines synthesized by leukocytes such as macrophages that limit viral replication. We hypothesized that one mechanism whereby Echinacea spp. extracts may enhance immunity is through modulating interferon-associated macrophage pathways. We used herpes simplex viral infection in the murine macrophage cell line RAW264.7 and monitored virus-induced cell death, interferon secretion, and two intracellular proteins that indicate activation of interferon pathways. Cells were incubated with control media or extracts from four different species (E. angustifolia, E. purpurea, E. tennesseensis, E. pallida). Cells incubated with extracts prior to infection showed very modest enhancement of viability, and no increase in the secretion of interferons alpha or beta as compared to control cells. Virus-infected macrophages treated with extracts from E. purpurea showed a small (<2-fold) induction of guanylate binding protein (GBP) production, but no effect of extracts from other species was observed. In virus-infected cells, all the extracts increased the amount of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) protein, and this effect varied by type of extraction preparation. Together, these results suggest that any potential antiviral activities of Echinacea spp. extracts are likely not mediated through large inductions of Type I interferon, but may involve iNOS.

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