Adverse effects of aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen on immune function, viral shedding, and clinical status in rhinovirus-infected volunteers

J Infect Dis. 1990 Dec;162(6):1277-82. doi: 10.1093/infdis/162.6.1277.


A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was conducted to study the effects of over-the-counter analgesic/antipyretic medications on virus shedding, immune response, and clinical status in the common cold. Sixty healthy volunteers were challenged intranasally with rhinovirus type 2 and randomized to one of four treatment arms: aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or placebo. Fifty-six volunteers were successfully infected and shed virus on at least 4 days after challenge. Virus shedding, antibody levels, clinical symptoms and signs, and blood leukocyte levels were carefully monitored. Use of aspirin and acetaminophen was associated with suppression of serum neutralizing antibody response (P less than .05 vs. placebo) and increased nasal symptoms and signs (P less than .05 vs. placebo). A concomitant rise in circulating monocytes suggested that the suppression of antibody response may be mediated through drug effects on monocytes and/or mononuclear phagocytes. There were no significant differences in viral shedding among the four groups, but a trend toward longer duration of virus shedding was observed in the aspirin and acetaminophen groups.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / adverse effects*
  • Acetaminophen / therapeutic use
  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Viral / biosynthesis
  • Aspirin / adverse effects*
  • Aspirin / therapeutic use
  • Common Cold / drug therapy*
  • Common Cold / immunology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Fever / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Ibuprofen / adverse effects*
  • Ibuprofen / therapeutic use
  • Immunity / drug effects
  • Leukocyte Count / drug effects
  • Male
  • Monocytes / drug effects
  • Phagocytes / drug effects
  • Rhinovirus / immunology
  • Rhinovirus / isolation & purification


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Acetaminophen
  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen