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Childhood tolerance of severe influenza: a mortality analysis in mice

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  • Childhood tolerance of severe influenza: a mortality analysis in mice

    Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2017 Sep 7:ajplung.00364.2017. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00364.2017. [Epub ahead of print]
    Childhood tolerance of severe influenza: a mortality analysis in mice.

    Suber F1, Kobzik L2.
    Author information


    During the 1918 influenza pandemic, children experienced substantially lower mortality than adults, a striking but unexplained finding. Whether this was due to enhanced resistance (reduced virus load) or better tolerance (reduced impact of infection) has not been defined. We found that prepubertal mice infected with H1N1 influenza virus also showed greater survival than infected pubertal mice, despite similar virus loads. Transcriptome profiling of infected lungs identified estrogen as a regulator of susceptibility in both sexes, and also linked better survival to late expression of IL-1beta. Blocking puberty with gonadectomy or a GnRH antagonist improved survival. Estrogen or testosterone (which can be converted to estrogen) restored susceptibility of gonadectomized pubertal mice to influenza mortality, but dihydrotestosterone (which cannot be converted to estrogen) did not. Estrogen receptor blockade with fulvestrant in both male and female pubertal mice resulted in improved survival, even when given three days after infection. Moreover, late, but not early, IL-1beta neutralization after infection was also protective. These findings indicate that pubertal increases in estrogen in both sexes are associated with increased mortality during influenza. This helps explain the reduced mortality of children seen with influenza in 1918, and might also be relevant to childhood tolerance to many other infectious diseases.
    Copyright 2017, American Journal of Physiology-Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology.


    age; hormones; immunomodulators; influenza

    PMID: 28882815 DOI: 10.1152/ajplung.00364.2017