Tumour necrosis factor (TNF) is an important cytokine in the innate immune response against various infections, including herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection. It has recently become a molecular target of anti-cytokine treatment in certain inflammatory diseases. TNF depletion resulted in a more rapid emergence of infectious HSV-1 in the explant cultures of latently infected trigeminal ganglia (TG), compared with controls. To further evaluate the importance of TNF in the host's defence responses against HSV-1, TNF-knockout mice were challenged via scarified cornea. These mice were more susceptible to primary acute corneal HSV-1 infection than controls, as manifested by an increased mortality rate and higher infectious virus titres in the eyes and TG, indicating that TNF is critical for defence during acute HSV infection. These results imply that the administration of anti-inflammatory TNF antagonists might facilitate the propagation of infectious HSV, resulting in an exacerbation of primary and recurrent acute lesions.
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