Influenza is an infectious disease causing huge medical and economic losses. Influenza pathogenesis is associated with two processes in the human body: (i) lung damage due to viral replication in the columnar ciliary epithelium of bronchi and bronchioles and (ii) inflammatory burst inducing an increase in reactive oxygen species generation that causes extensive damage in cellular membranes of the small vessels. The oxidative stress in influenza virus-infected organism provokes free-radical oxidation of unsaturated lipid chains in the cell membranes. As vitamin E is a lipid-soluble substance and possesses a hydrophobic tail, it tends to accumulate within lipid membranes. There, it acts as the most important chain breaker, reacting with lipid peroxyl radicals much faster than they can react with adjacent fatty acid side chains. Among the antioxidants tested in influenza virus infections in mice, vitamin E occupies the leading position because of its efficacy in preventing oxidative damage through its free-radical scavenging activity. Although vitamin E is not possessing specific antiviral action, its antioxidant effect probably plays important role in lung and liver protection. Attention should be paid to the synergistic character of antiviral effect of the combination vitamin E and oseltamivir. Vitamin E could be recommended as a component in multitarget influenza therapy.
Part of the book: Vitamin E in Health and Disease