The innate immunity against murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) at the early phase of infection is mediated by NK cells and macrophages. We studied the effects of hochu-ekki-to (HET), a traditional Chinese herbal medicine, on the regulation of innate immunity mediated by NK cells and macrophages. We found the oral administration of HET to increase both the number of leukocytes in the spleen and liver and the splenic NK cell cytotoxicity associated with the increased induction of serum IFN-α/β after an MCMV infection but it had no effect on liver NK cells. However, no differences were found in the serum IL-12, IFN-γ, TNF-α and nitric oxide (NO) production in the culture of macrophages between the HET- and PBS-treated mice on day 2 after MCMV infection. In addition, HET-treated splenic and peritoneal macrophages were found to show a higher intrinsic resistance against in vitro MCMV infection than that of PBS-treated mice. Therefore, the HET-induced effects on NK cells and macrophages selectively reduced the viral load in the spleen but not in the liver at an early phase of MCMV infection. HET may thus be useful in the treatment of human cytomegalovirus infection which commonly occurs in HIV-infected AIDS patients. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.
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