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Ginseng has been used in humans for thousands of years but its effects on viral infection have not been well understood. We investigated the effects of red ginseng extract (RGE) on respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection using in vitro cell culture and in vivo mouse models. RGE partially protected human epithelial (HEp2) cells from RSV-induced cell death and viral replication. In addition, RGE significantly inhibited the production of RSV-induced pro-inflammatory cytokine (TNF-α) in murine dendritic and macrophage-like cells. More importantly, RGE intranasal pre-treatment prevented loss of mouse body weight after RSV infection. RGE treatment improved lung viral clearance and enhanced the production of interferon (IFN-γ) in bronchoalveolar lavage cells upon RSV infection of mice. Analysis of cellular phenotypes in bronchoalveolar lavage fluids showed that RGE treatment increased the populations of CD8+ T cells and CD11c+ dendritic cells upon RSV infection of mice. Taken together, these results provide evidence that ginseng has protective effects against RSV infection through multiple mechanisms, which include improving cell survival, partial inhibition of viral replication and modulation of cytokine production and types of immune cells migrating into the lung.


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Nutrients 2015, 7, 1021-1036; doi:

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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