Influenza-associated encephalopathy, a severe neurologic complication of influenza, is being reported more frequently in Japan. We investigated the transcription of cytokine genes in peripheral blood leukocytes and compared patients with influenza and with encephalopathy or febrile convulsions and patients with influenza but without neurologic complications. A quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) revealed that transcription of the interleukin (IL)-6, IL-10, and tumor necrosis factor-α genes was up-regulated to a greater extent in patients with encephalopathy than in those without neurologic complications. Plasma IL-6 levels also were higher in patients with encephalopathy, although the difference was marginal. Viral RNA in throat swabs was quantified using a real-time quantitative PCR. The virus load was similar among patients with encephalopathy or febrile convulsions or without neurologic complications. Furthermore, virus load was not correlated with either the transcription of cytokine genes or plasma cytokine concentrations. These results suggest that influenza-associated encephalopathy might be a consequence of systemic immune responses.
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