Group A streptococcus (GAS) infection can cause severe invasive diseases, including necrotizing fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. Cordyceps sinensis, a Chinese herbal medicine, is an immunomodulator. In this study the air-pouch bacterial inoculation model was used to investigate the protective efficacy of C. sinensis mycelium extract against GAS infection. Force-feeding mice with C. sinensis mycelium extract for 3 consecutive days before GAS infection increased the survival rate and reduced local skin-tissue injury compared with mice fed PBS. Bacterial numbers in the air pouch exudates from C. sinensis-treated mice were lower than those from PBS-treated mice. Blood and organs in PBS-treated mice showed bacterial dissemination, but those in C. sinensis-treated mice did not. Three days of pretreatment with C. sinensis extract followed by C. sinensis treatment every other day after GAS infection resulted in 100% survival. The post-GAS-infection levels of aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase and blood urea nitrogen in the sera of C. sinensis-treated mice were lower than those of PBS-treated mice. Taken together, these results show that C. sinensis mycelium extract protects by decreasing bacterial growth and dissemination, thereby increasing mouse survival rate. IL-12 and IFN-γ expression and macrophage phagocytic activity also increased after C. sinensis treatment.
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