The pathogenicity of influenza virus infection in the mice involves, at least in part, overreaction of the immune responses of the host rather than a direct effect of virus multiplication. Xanthine oxidase, which is responsible for the generation of oxygen free radicals, was elevated in serum and lung tissue of mice infected with influenza virus. To test the theory that oxygen-free radicals are involved in pathogenesis, free radicals were removed by injecting superoxide dismutase (SOD), a specific superoxide radical scavenger, which was conjugated with a pyran copolymer. The conjugate protected mice against a potentially lethal influenza virus infection if administered 5 to 8 days after infection. These findings indicate that oxygen radicals are important in the pathogenesis of influenza virus infection, and that a polymer-conjugated SOD has therapeutic potential for this virus infection and other diseases associated with free radicals.
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