In this study, the contribution of type I interferons (IFNs) to protection against infection with enterovirus 71 (EV71) was investigated using a murine model where the virus was administrated to neonatal Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) mice by either the intraperitoneal (i.p.) or the oral route. In i.p. inoculated mice, post-infection treatment of dexamethasone (5 mg kg-1 at 2 or 3 days after infection) exacerbated clinical symptoms and increased the tissue viral titre. In contrast, polyriboinosinic: polyribocytidylic acid [poly(I:C); 10 or 100 μg per mouse at 12 h before infection], a potent IFN inducer, improved the survival rate and decreased the tissue viral titres after EV71 challenge, which correlated with an increase in serum IFN-α concentration, the percentage of dendritic cells, their expression of major histocompatibility complex class II molecule and IFN-α in spleen. Treatment with a neutralizing antibody for type I IFNs (104 neutralizing units per mouse, 6 h before and 12 h after infection) resulted in frequent deaths and higher tissue viral load in infected mice compared with control mice. In contrast, an early administration of recombinant mouse IFN-αA (104 U per mouse for 3 days starting at 0, 1 or 3 days after infection) protected the mice against EV71 infection. In vitro analysis of virus-induced death in three human cell lines showed that human type I IFNs exerted a direct protective effect on EV71. It was concluded that type I IFNs play an important role in controlling EV71 infection and replication.
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