A significant protective effect of a native adrenal steroid, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), was demonstrated in studies of two lethal viral infection models in mice: systemic coxsackievirus B4 and herpes simplex type 2 encephalitis. The steroid was active either by long‐term feeding or by a single subcutaneous injection. A closely related steroid, etiocholanolone, was not protective in these models. Histopathological analysis, leukocyte counts, and numbers of spleen antibody forming cells in the coxsackievirus B4 model suggests that DHEA functions by maintaining or potentiating the immune competence of mice otherwise depressed by viral infection. DHEA was not effective in genetically immunodeficient HRS/J hr/hr mice and did not demonstrate antiviral activity in vitro. While the molecular basis for DHEA's effect on the immune system is not known, studies by others suggest that it may counteract the stress related immunosuppressive effects of glucocorticoids stimulated by viral infection. Because DHEA is a native steroid that has been used clinically with minimal side effects, the utility of DHEA in the therapeutic modulation of acute and chronic viral infections including the acquired immune deficiency syndrome deserves intensive study.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||14|
|Journal||Journal of Medical Virology|
|State||Published - Nov 1988|
- immune up‐regulation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases