Inhibition of influenza A virus by human infant saliva

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Gilbertson B, Edenborough K, McVernon J, Brown LE.

Viruses, 2019 Aug 20;11(8). pii: E766.  DOI: 10.3390/v11080766

Innate antiviral factors in saliva play a role in protection against respiratory infections. We tested the anti-influenza virus activities of saliva samples taken from human infants, 1-12 months old, with no history of prior exposure to influenza. In contrast to the inhibitory activity we observed in mouse and ferret saliva, the activity of human infant saliva was complex, with both sialic acid-dependent and independent components, the proportion of which differed between individuals. Taken as a whole, we showed that the major anti-influenza activity of infant saliva is acquired over the first year of life and is associated with sialic acid-containing molecules. The activity of sialic acid-independent inhibitors was lower overall, more variable between individuals, and less dependent on age. The results show that the saliva of very young infants can provide a degree of protection against influenza, which may be critical in the absence of adaptive immunity.