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Chin Med. 2012 Jul 28;7(1):17. doi: 10.1186/1749-8546-7-17.

Electroacupuncture at the ST36 acupoint increases interleukin-4 responsiveness in macrophages, generation of alternatively activated macrophages and susceptibility to Leishmania major infection.

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Department of Microbiology, Immunology, Parasitology and Pathology, Tropical Pathology and Public Health Institute, Federal University of Goiás, Goiânia, Goiás, Brazil.



Electroacupuncture (EA) has been used to treat inflammatory diseases. Alternatively activated macrophages (AAMo) stimulated by cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-4, IL-10 and IL-13 are anti-inflammatory and mildly microbicidal. This study aimed to evaluate whether EA at the Zusanli acupoint (ST36) would change the profile of healthy murine macrophages, particularly the generation of AAMo and susceptibility to Leishmania major infection.


BALB/c mice were treated with EA (15/30 Hz) at the ST36 acupoint for 20 min/d for 5 d. After the final EA session, the mice were euthanized and their peritoneal cells were harvested and counted for determination of arginase activity, nitric oxide (NO) production and microbicidal activity after culture in the presence or absence of IL-4, interferon-γ (IFNγ) or lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or both IFNγ and LPS. Twelve mice were infected with L. major promastigotes into the footpads after the final EA session and the infection course was monitored.


Peritoneal cells freshly obtained from EA-treated mice had similar arginase and microbicidal activities to cells from sham-treated mice. After culture with IL-4, cells from EA-treated mice exhibited significant increases in the arginase activity (sham: 58 ± 11.3 vs. EA: 80.7 ± 4.6%, P = 0.025) and number of parasites/infected cell (sham: 2.5 ± 0.4 vs. EA: 4.3 ± 0.8 cells, P = 0.007). The NO production was lower in cells from EA-treated mice cultured in the presence of a combination of IFNγ and LPS (sham: 31.6 ± 6.5 vs. EA: 22.3 ± 2.1 μM, P = 0.025). The lesion size in mice infected with L. major promastigotes was larger in EA-treated mice (sham: 3.26 ± 0.29 vs. EA: 2.23 ± 0.4 mm, P = 0.039).


EA at the ST36 acupoint increases IL-4 responsiveness in macrophages, Generation of AAMo and susceptibility to L. major infection.

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