The role of adjuvant immunomodulatory agents for treatment of severe influenza

Antiviral Res. 2018 Feb;150:202-216. doi: 10.1016/j.antiviral.2018.01.002. Epub 2018 Jan 8.


A severe inflammatory immune response with hypercytokinemia occurs in patients hospitalized with severe influenza, such as avian influenza A(H5N1), A(H7N9), and seasonal A(H1N1)pdm09 virus infections. The role of immunomodulatory therapy is unclear as there have been limited published data based on randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Passive immunotherapy such as convalescent plasma and hyperimmune globulin have some studies demonstrating benefit when administered as an adjunctive therapy for severe influenza. Triple combination of oseltamivir, clarithromycin, and naproxen for severe influenza has one study supporting its use, and confirmatory studies would be of great interest. Likewise, confirmatory studies of sirolimus without concomitant corticosteroid therapy should be explored as a research priority. Other agents with potential immunomodulating effects, including non-immune intravenous immunoglobulin, N-acetylcysteine, acute use of statins, macrolides, pamidronate, nitazoxanide, chloroquine, antiC5a antibody, interferons, human mesenchymal stromal cells, mycophenolic acid, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors agonists, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents, mesalazine, herbal medicine, and the role of plasmapheresis and hemoperfusion as rescue therapy have supportive preclinical or observational clinical data, and deserve more investigation preferably by RCTs. Systemic corticosteroids administered in high dose may increase the risk of mortality and morbidity in patients with severe influenza and should not be used, while the clinical utility of low dose systemic corticosteroids requires further investigation.

Keywords: Adjunctive therapies; Immunomodulatory agents; Influenza.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / pharmacology
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use*
  • Immunomodulation / drug effects
  • Immunotherapy
  • Influenza, Human / diagnosis
  • Influenza, Human / drug therapy*
  • Influenza, Human / virology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Immunologic Factors