Immune and oxidative changes during and following the Western States Endurance Run

Int J Sports Med. 2003 Oct;24(7):541-7. doi: 10.1055/s-2003-42018.


Changes in immune and oxidative stress parameters were measured in ultramarathon runners competing in the 160-km Western States Endurance Run. Forty-five runners agreed to provide blood and saliva samples the morning before the race event, at the 90-km aid station, and 5 - 10 min post-race. Upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) during the two-week period post-race was assessed retrospectively by telephone interviews. Forty subjects completed 90-km (race time, 13.1 +/- 0.3 h), and 31 completed the 160-km race event (27.0 +/- 0.4 h). The blood neutrophil and monocyte counts rose 249 % and 214 %, respectively, in the 31 finishers. Salivary IgA (sIgA) secretion rate decreased significantly from 508 +/- 40 micro g/min pre-race, to 287 +/- 39 micro g/min at 90-km, and 254 +/- 30 micro g/min post-race (50 % decrease). Significant increases were measured in cytokines at 90-km and post-race, with post-race IL-10 increasing 9.5-fold, IL-1ra 6.1-fold, IL-6 50.2-fold, and IL-8 2.5-fold over pre-race levels. Post-race indicators of oxidative stress, F (2)-isoprostane and lipid hydroperoxides, increased 33 % and 88 %, respectively. Pearson product-moment correlations revealed positive correlations at 90-km between F (2)-isoprostane and IL-6 (r = 0.31, p = 0.048), IL-10 (r = 0.31, p = 0.050), and IL-8 (r = 0.43, p = 0.005), but no other significant relationships between immune and oxidative stress indicators at 90-km and post-race. In the group of runners completing at least 90 km of the race, 26 % reported an URTI episode during the two-week period post-race. A low sIgA secretion rate at 90-km was the best predictor of post-race URTI (173 +/- 34 micro g/min in those who later acquired URTI compared to 325 +/- 40 micro g/min in those without URTI, p = 0.007). In conclusion, a modest correlation was found between cytokines and F (2)-isoprostane at 90-km when the greatest oxidative stress occurred, but no other significant correlations in immune and oxidative stress indicators during and following a 160-km ultramarathon race event were noted. About one in four ultramarathoners reported URTI during the two-week period post-race, and a low sIgA secretion rate mid-race best predicted URTI occurrence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / blood
  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory / analysis
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Physical Endurance / immunology*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology
  • Running / physiology*
  • Saliva
  • Sex Characteristics


  • Cytokines
  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory
  • Hydrogen Peroxide