Differential airway inflammatory responses in asthma exacerbations induced by respiratory syncytial virus and influenza virus a

Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2013;161(4):378-82. doi: 10.1159/000348381. Epub 2013 May 14.


Background: Although respiratory viral infections cause acute exacerbations of asthma, the inflammatory responses vary depending on the causative virus. The purpose of this study was to compare the inflammatory responses in the airways of acute exacerbations of asthma induced by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza A virus.

Methods: Sputum induction was performed in asthmatic patients with acute exacerbations induced by RSV (n = 6), influenza A (n = 7), and non-upper respiratory infection (URI)-related factors (n = 8). Sputum concentrations of cysteinyl leukotrienes (cysLTs), TNF-α and IFN-γ were measured.

Results: Sputum cysLTs were significantly higher in RSV-induced exacerbations than in influenza A- and non-URI-induced exacerbations. Sputum TNF-α was significantly higher in influenza A-induced exacerbations than in RSV- and non-URI-induced exacerbations. Sputum IFN-γ was significantly lower in RSV-induced exacerbations than in the others.

Conclusions: RSV and influenza A cause acute exacerbations and have different effects on airway inflammation in asthmatic patients. RSV significantly increased cysLTs, while influenza A significantly increased TNF-α in the airway. The underlying mechanism in virus-induced asthma might depend on the viral species.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / complications
  • Asthma / immunology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Influenza A virus / immunology*
  • Influenza A virus / pathogenicity
  • Influenza, Human / complications
  • Influenza, Human / immunology*
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Leukotriene D4 / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / complications
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / immunology*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Viruses / immunology*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Viruses / pathogenicity
  • Sputum / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Leukotriene D4
  • Interferon-gamma