Author(s): Beck MA
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Abstract It has long been known that the nutritional status of the host can influence both susceptibility to infectious disease and the severity of the disease if contracted. In studies of coxsackievirus infection and selenium deficiency in mice, we found that mice fed a selenium-deficient diet developed myocarditis, but mice fed a diet adequate in selenium did not. Similarly, mice fed a diet deficient in vitamin E developed myocarditis, but mice fed a diet with adequate vitamin E did not. The epidemic of optic and peripheral neuropathy that occurred in Cuba in the early 1990s provides another example of how the nutritional status of the host may affect the impact of a virus. Patients who developed neuropathy had lower blood concentrations of riboflavin, vitamin E, selenium, alpha- and beta-carotenes, and the carotenoid lycopene, which suggests that the disease was associated with an impairment of protective antioxidant pathways. After supplementation of the population with these nutrients, the disease began to subside. The nutritional status of the host can have a profound influence on a virus, so that a normally avirulent virus becomes virulent because of changes in the viral genome. Our studies suggest that outbreaks of disease attributed to a nutritional deficiency may actually result from infection by a virus that has become pathogenic by replicating in a nutritionally deficient host.
This article was published in Am J Clin Nutr
and referenced in Vitamins & Minerals