Respiratory viral infections are commonly associated with altered immune responses, such as proliferative responses to mitogens and antigens. To examine potential mechanisms, we examined production of IL-1 and IL-1 inhibitors by purified human peripheral blood-derived macrophages exposed to influenza virus or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). IL-1 and IL-1 inhibitor activities in supernatant fluids from macrophages exposed to the viruses 24 h previously were measured using the standard mouse thymocyte comitogen assay. Crude fluids from macrophages exposed to influenza virus contained substantial IL-1 activity, whereas crude fluids from macrophages exposed to RSV contained marked IL-1 inhibitor activity. Assays with gel filtration-separated fractions revealed that both influenza virus and RSV induced production of both IL-1 and IL-1 inhibitors. Neither IL-2 nor IL-2 inhibitor activities were detected. Thus, effects of human macrophage-derived factors on thymocyte proliferation, or potentially on human lymphocyte proliferation, may reflect the total or net activity of multiple composite factors, the balance of which varies according to the challenge. The data raise the possibility that marked production of IL-1 inhibitor activity in response to RSV plays a role in the clinical recurrence of RSV infection despite the absence of clear evidence for antigenic shift or drift of the virus.

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