a1 Nutritional Immunology Laboratory, Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111, USA
a2 Department of Pathology, Sackler Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111, USA
The incidence of infectious diseases, particularly respiratory diseases, increases with age. Age-associated decline in immune function contributes to the increased susceptibility of the aged to infections. Vitamin E supplementation has been shown to improve some aspects of immune function in aged animals and human subjects. The protective effect of vitamin E against viral or bacterial infections in experimentally-challenged young animals has been reported. We investigated the effects of supplementation with vitamin E and other antioxidants on resistance to influenza infection in young and old animals. While vitamin E-supplemented young mice showed only a modest reduction in lung viral titre, vitamin E-supplemented old mice exhibited a highly significant (P< 0.05) reduction in viral lung titre. In subsequent studies, we focused on the mechanism of vitamin E-induced reduction of influenza viral titre. The results of these studies as well as those reported by other investigators on the relationship between vitamin E and infectious diseases will be reviewed.