We investigated the possible involvement of oxidative mechanisms in the pathogenesis of influenza A/PR8/34 virus infection in mice. As a biochemical marker of oxidative stress, we determined the endogenous concentrations of the antioxidants glutathione and vitamins C and E in their reduced and oxidized forms in the lungs, liver and blood plasma of control and infected animals. Following intranasal infection with 8 to 10 LD, influenza virus was detected in the lungs, but not in the plasma, liver or other organs. Infection resulted in a decrease in the total concentration of glutathione and vitamins C and E, whereas no relevant change in the ratio of oxidized to total concentration of antioxidants was observed. Changes in the concentration of hepatic antioxidants were significant in the early stages of the infection. The results suggest that hepatic alterations may be caused indirectly by mechanisms related to the host response to virus infection. The observed general decrease in the antioxidant buffering capacity may reduce the ability of tissues to protect against potential oxidative stress. Such stress can occur during bacterial superinfections, which are common in influenza, thereby rendering the host more susceptible to the pathogenic effects of such agents. In addition, reactive oxygen species produced in the lung may inactivate protease inhibitors, resulting in increased protease activity. Using an system consisting of α1-antiprotease, trypsin and HOCl as the oxidant, we have shown that the infectivity of influenza viruses can be increased up to 10000-fold by proteolytic cleavage of haemagglutinin, leading to activation of the fusogenic properties of this protein.


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