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A review of studies on the effects of ultraviolet irradiation on the resistance to infections: evidence from rodent infection models and verification by experimental and observational human studies.

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  • Medicine
  • Physics


Recent studies on the immunosuppressive effects of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and the related resistance to infections in rodents and humans are presented. The waveband dependency of trans-to-cis isomerisation of urocanic acid in the stratum corneum and the role of DNA damage in UVR-induced erythema and immunosuppression were investigated to further elucidate the underlying mechanisms. Furthermore, human experimental studies on UVR-induced immunomodulation were performed. It appeared that the doses needed to suppress various immune parameters in humans (e.g. NK activity, contact hypersensitivity) were higher than those needed in experiments in rodents. Still, extrapolation of experimental animal data to the human situation showed that UVR may impair the resistance to different systemic infections at relevant outdoor doses. In observational human studies we aimed to substantiate the relevance of UVR for infections in humans. It was shown that sunny season was associated with a slightly retarded but clinically non-relevant antibody response to hepatitis B vaccination. Furthermore, sunny season appeared to be associated with a small decline in the number of CD4+ T-helper cells in a cohort of HIV-infected persons and a higher recurrence of herpes simplex and herpes zoster in a cohort of renal transplant recipients. However, in a study among young children a higher exposure to solar UVR was associated with a lower occurrence of upper respiratory tract symptoms. As disentangling the effects of UVR from other relevant factors is often impossible in observational studies, concise quantitative risk estimations for the human situation cannot be given at present.

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