Investigations were carried out to study the production of factors associated with the innate immune response in the systemic and mucosal compartments in adults and children infected with Vibrio cholerae O1 and V. cholerae O139. The levels of nonspecific mediators of the innate defense system, i.e., prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)), leukotriene B(4) (LTB(4)), and lactoferrin (Lf), as well as myeloperoxidase (MPO), were elevated at the acute stage of the disease in stools obtained from both O1- and O139-infected adults and children. In the systemic compartment, the levels of Lf were increased after onset of disease, which in children remained elevated up to convalescence compared to the healthy controls. Increased concentrations of C-reactive protein were seen in the sera of adult cholera patients at the acute stage of infection. Elevated levels of the nitric oxide (NO*) metabolites (nitrite and nitrate [NO(2)(-) and NO(3)(-)]) were detected in plasma but not in urine. The activity of the scavenger of reactive oxygen species, superoxide dismutase, was higher in the plasma of adults immediately after the onset of disease, suggesting that an active scavenging of reactive oxygen species was taking place. The concentration of 8-iso-prostaglandin F(2 alpha) remained unchanged in the systemic and mucosal compartments in the study subjects. After the recovery of patients from cholera, the concentration of the majority of the metabolites decreased to baseline levels by day 30 after the onset of infection. Immunohistochemical staining showed increased tissue expression of MPO, Lf, and inducible nitric oxide synthase at the acute stage in the duodenal biopsies of adults and rectal biopsies obtained from children with cholera. Very little difference was seen in the levels of the different inflammatory mediators in patients infected with V. cholerae O1 or the encapsulated V. cholerae O139. In summary, these results suggest that elevated concentrations of Lf, MPO, PGE(2), LTB(4), and NO*, as well as other metabolites, during the acute stage of the disease indicate that the innate defense system, as well as the inflammatory process, is activated in both adults and pediatric patients infected with V. cholerae O1 and O139.