Influenza virus infection induces functional alterations in peripheral blood lymphocytes

Dorothy E. Lewis, B. E. Gilbert, V. Knight

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63 Scopus citations


This report describes alterations in functional responses to lectin-induced stimulation of peripheral blood lymphocytes and in the natural killer cell (NKC) activity, of college students, obtained during an outbreak of influenza A/Philippines/2/82(H3N2) virus infection. These results are compared with similar observations in college students with an acute, febrile, noninfluenzal respiratory illness that occurred during the same outbreak. The lymphopenia typical of influenza during acute illness was shown to be due to a reduction in both T and B cells without alteration in the CD4:CD8 ratio. In addition, phytohemagglutinin and concanavalin A responses were reduced and NKC activity was increased, while pokeweed mitogen reactivity was unaltered at the time of admission to the study. Patients with noninfluenzal illness showed early polymorphonuclear leukocytosis and a similar lymphopenia. Lymphocyte functions were virtually unchanged during acute illness in noninfluenza patients. The relatively specific alterations in lymphocyte responses to lectin-induced stimulation in influenza patients may indicate that the peripheral T cells are incapable of activation via the CD3 or CD2 activation pathways. In addition, increased NKC activity in the periphery may be reflective of increased NKC activity in the lung. Influenza-infected individuals with higher NKC activity at the time of admission to the study also took longer to recover. Finally, the early lymphopenia and the later neutropenia in the influenza-infected patient may represent migration of these cells from the circulation to the infected respiratory tract as a consequence of infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3777-3781
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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