Clinical aspects and cytokine response in severe H1N1 influenza A virus infection

Crit Care. 2010;14(6):R203. doi: 10.1186/cc9324. Epub 2010 Nov 9.


Introduction: The immune responses in patients with novel A(H1N1) virus infection (nvA(H1N1)) are incompletely characterized. We investigated the profile of Th1 and Th17 mediators and interferon-inducible protein-10 (IP-10) in groups with severe and mild nvA(H1N1) disease and correlated them with clinical aspects.

Methods: Thirty-two patients hospitalized with confirmed nvA(H1N1) infection were enrolled in the study: 21 patients with nvA(H1N1)-acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and 11 patients with mild disease. One group of 20 patients with bacterial sepsis-ARDS and another group of 15 healthy volunteers were added to compare their cytokine levels with pandemic influenza groups. In the nvA(H1N1)-ARDS group, the serum cytokine samples were obtained on admission and 3 days later. The clinical aspects were recorded prospectively.

Results: In the nvA(H1N1)-ARDS group, obesity and lymphocytopenia were more common and IP-10, interleukin (IL)-12, IL-15, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)α, IL-6, IL-8 and IL-9 were significantly increased versus control. When comparing mild with severe nvA(H1N1) groups, IL-6, IL-8, IL-15 and TNFα were significantly higher in the severe group. In nonsurvivors versus survivors, IL-6 and IL-15 were increased on admission and remained higher 3 days later. A positive correlation of IL-6, IL-8 and IL-15 levels with C-reactive protein and with > 5-day interval between symptom onset and admission, and a negative correlation with the PaO(2):FiO(2) ratio, were found in nvA(H1N1) groups. In obese patients with influenza disease, a significant increased level of IL-8 was found. When comparing viral ARDS with bacterial ARDS, the level of IL-8, IL-17 and TNFα was significantly higher in bacterial ARDS and IL-12 was increased only in viral ARDS.

Conclusions: In our critically ill patients with novel influenza A(H1N1) virus infection, the hallmarks of the severity of disease were IL-6, IL-15, IL-8 and TNFα. These cytokines, except TNFα, had a positive correlation with the admission delay and C-reactive protein, and a negative correlation with the PaO(2):FiO(2) ratio. Obese patients with nvA(H1N1) disease have a significant level of IL-8. There are significant differences in the level of cytokines when comparing viral ARDS with bacterial ARDS.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis*
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / immunology*
  • Influenza, Human / blood
  • Influenza, Human / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Young Adult


  • Cytokines