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Immune Support for
The Common Cold,
Flu and Beta Glucan
The common cold,
typically caused by human parainfluenza viruses,
remains one of the most frustrating of medical illnesses, given its incidence
and prevalence. The common cold has
significant effects on health, well-being, and productivity. Each cold experienced by a working adult
results in an average of 8.7 lost work hours, and 1.2 lost work hours due to
attending to sick children.1
The economic burden of lost productivity due to colds is
approximately $25 billion annually, with lost productivity from missed work
days comprising the majority of the financial burden.2 There are no reliable interventions
currently available that significantly protect against influenza infections
or prevent the occurrence of this illness.
There have been several clinical trials evaluating a variety of
dietary supplements for the prevention and treatment of both experimentally
induced and naturally occurring colds.
Biological response modifiers such as beta-glucan, enhance the innate immune response without
inducing damaging pro-inflammatory cytokines, and may represent a novel
approach to protect against cold and flu pathogens.3
Beta-glucans are glucose polymers derived from yeast, fungi,
or from oats. In vivo studies
suggest beta-glucans may enhance the immune system
responses to infectious organisms without eliciting a pro-inflammatory
In clinical trials, beta-glucan
reduces postoperative infection rates and shortens intensive care unit stay
duration.9-11 One study also reported that increasing
doses of beta-glucan resulted in fewer infections
Beta-glucan appears to improve
immune function in a variety of animal models, without increasing
pro-inflammatory cytokines or inducing a febrile response.3,7,12,13
It appears that beta-glucan may
be a powerful immune stimulator, as evidenced by its ability to activate
macrophages and stimulate positive immune actions on B lymphocytes, natural
killer cells, and suppressor T cells in the immune system.14-16 Many in vitro studies have
shown that beta-glucan significantly increases microbiocidal activity of human neutrophils
and macrophages against a variety of pathogens without directly stimulating
synthesis of the cytokines, IL-1 or TNF.
The exact pathway through which beta-glucans
interact with the immune system is unknown.
One proposed mechanism is the activation of Dectin-1 pattern
recognition receptor on blood peripheral mononuclear cells.17,18
- Bramley TJ, Lerner D, Sames M.
Productivity losses related to the common cold. J Occup
Environ Med 2002;44(9):822-9.
- Molinari NA,
Ortega-Sanchez IR, Messonnier ML, Thompson WW,
Wortley PM, Weintraub
E, Bridges CB. The annual impact
of seasonal influenza in the US:
measuring disease burden and costs. Vaccine 2007;25(27):5086-96
- Niederman R, Kelderman H, Socransky S, Ostroff G, Genco C, Dent
R, Jr., Stashenko P. Enhanced neutrophil
emigration and Porphyromonas gingivalis reduction following beta-glucan treatment of mice. Arch Oral Biol
- Bedirli A, Kerem M, Pasaoglu H, Akyurek N, Tezcaner T, Elbeg S, Memis L, Sakrak O.
Beta-glucan attenuates inflammatory
cytokine release and prevents acute lung injury in an experimental model
of sepsis. Shock 2007;27(4):397-401.
- Ikewaki N, Fujii N, Onaka T, Ikewaki S, Inoko H. Immunological actions of Sophy beta-glucan (beta-1,3-1,6 glucan), currently
available commercially as a health food supplement. Microbiol Immunol 2007;51(9):861-73.
- Liang J, Melican D, Cafro L, Palace
G, Fisette L, Armstrong R, Patchen
ML. Enhanced clearance of a
multiple antibiotic resistant Staphylococcus aureus
in rats treated with beta-glucan is associated
with increased leukocyte counts and increased neutrophil
oxidative burst activity. Int J Immunopharmacol 1998;20(11):595-614.
- Onderdonk AB, Cisneros RL, Hinkson P, Ostroff G. Anti-infective effect of poly-beta
1-6-glucotriosyl-beta 1-3-glucopyranose glucan
in vivo. Infect Immun 1992;60(4):1642-7.
- Kaiser AB, Kernodle DS.
Synergism between poly-(1-6)-beta-D-glucopyranosyl-(1-3)-beta-D-glucopyranose glucan and cefazolin in prophylaxis of staphylococcal wound
infection in a guinea pig model. Antimicrob Agents Chemother
- Babineau TJ, Hackford A, Kenler A, Bistrian B, Forse RA,
Fairchild PG, Heard S, Keroack M, Caushaj P, Benotti P. A phase II multicenter, double-blind,
randomized, placebo-controlled study of three dosages of an immunomodulator (beta-glucan)
in high-risk surgical patients.
Arch Surg 1994;129(11):1204-10.
- Babineau TJ, Marcello P, Swails W, Kenler A, Bistrian B, Forse RA. Randomized phase I/II trial of a
macrophage-specific immunomodulator (beta-glucan) in high-risk surgical patients. Ann Surg
- Dellinger EP, Babineau TJ, Bleicher P,
Kaiser AB, Seibert GB, Postier RG, Vogel SB,
Norman J, Kaufman D, Galandiuk S, Condon
RE. Effect of beta-glucan on the rate of serious postoperative
infection or death observed after high-risk gastrointestinal operations.
Gastrointestinal Study Group.
Arch Surg 1999;134(9):977-83.
- Sandvik A, Wang YY, Morton
HC, Aasen AO, Wang JE, Johansen FE. Oral and systemic administration of
beta-glucan protects against lipopolysaccharide-induced shock and organ injury in
Exp Immunol 2007;48(1):168-77.
- Kournikakis B, Mandeville R, Brousseau P, Ostroff
G. Anthrax-protective effects of
yeast beta 1,3 glucans. MedGenMed
- Brown GD, Gordon
S. Immune recognition of fungal
Cell Microbiol 2005;7(4):471-9.
- Castro GR, Ranilaitis B, Bora E, Kaplan DL. Controlled release biopolymers for
enhancing the immune response.
Mol Pharm 2007;4(1):33-46.
- Rice PJ, Adams EL, Ozment-Skelton T, Gonzalez AJ, Goldman MP, Lockhart
BE, Barker LA, Breuel KF, Depont
WK, Kalbfleisch JH, Ensley HE, Brown GD,
Gordon S, Williams DL. Oral
delivery and gastrointestinal absorption of soluble glucans
stimulate increased resistance to infectious challenge. J Pharmacol
Exp Ther 2005;314(3):1079-86.
- Nerren JR, Kogut MH. The
selective Dectin-1 agonist, curdlan, induces
an oxidative burst response in chicken heterophils
and peripheral blood mononuclear.
Vet Immunol Immunopathol
2009 Jan 15;127(1-2):162-6. Epub 2008
- Shah VB, Huang Y, Keshwara
R, Oxment-Skelton T, Williams DL, Keshvara L.
Beta-glucan activates microglia without
inducing cytokine production in Dectin-1-dependent manner. J Immunol
2008 Mar 1;180(5):2777-85.
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Common Cold, Flu and
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