Dietary supplementation with lacto-wolfberry enhances the immune response and reduces pathogenesis to influenza infection in mice

J Nutr. 2012 Aug;142(8):1596-602. doi: 10.3945/jn.112.159467. Epub 2012 Jun 27.


Despite the availability of vaccines, influenza is a considerable public health problem, which emphasizes the need for development of additional strategies to enhance host defense against influenza. Wolfberry, or goji berry, long used as a medicinal food in China, has recently been shown to improve immune response in mice. Because immune response plays a key role in the body's defense against pathogens, we hypothesized that wolfberry may increase host resistance to influenza infection by enhancing immune response. To test this hypothesis, we fed adult mice (4 mo old) a milk-based preparation of wolfberry called Lacto-Wolfberry (LWB) for 4 wk and then infected them with influenza A/Puerto Rico/8/34 (H1N1) while continuing the same experimental diets. Viral titer, lung pathology, and immune response were determined at different time points postinfection. LWB supplementation prevented infection-induced weight loss and reduced lung pathology on days 6 and 9 postinfection (P < 0.05). LWB-fed mice showed overall, significantly higher concanavalin A-induced IL-2 production (P < 0.05). Furthermore, we found positive correlations between weight loss and lung viral titer, pathology score, TNFα, and IL-6 production as well as negative correlations with T cell proliferation and IL-2 production (all P ≤ 0.05). These results indicate that LWB supplementation can attenuate symptoms and pathology of influenza infection by decreasing inflammatory cytokines in lungs while enhancing systemic T cell-mediated function as measured by their ability to produce IL-2.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed / analysis
  • Animals
  • Diet
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Glutathione Disulfide / metabolism
  • Immunity, Cellular / drug effects*
  • Immunity, Humoral / drug effects*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / physiology
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Lycium*
  • Lymphocytes / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / immunology
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / pathology
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / prevention & control*
  • Random Allocation
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Spleen / metabolism


  • Glutathione
  • Glutathione Disulfide