Understanding Impact of Influenza and Respiratory Viruses: Oxidative Stress and Beyond

Understanding Impact of Influenza and Respiratory Viruses: Oxidative Stress and Beyond

Respiratory viruses, such as influenza, have posed a significant health concern due to their ability to trigger widespread illness and even pandemics. The healthcare sector plays a vital role in understanding these viruses and their impact on the human body. One fascinating aspect that researchers have been exploring is the relationship between these viruses and oxidative stress, an important factor in many diseases.

What is Influenza?

The Basics

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is an infectious respiratory disease caused by influenza viruses. This infection primarily affects the nose, throat, and lungs, presenting a spectrum of symptoms ranging from mild to severe. In severe cases, the flu can result in hospitalisation and even death. Globally, seasonal influenza kills an average of around 400,000 people from respiratory disease each year.

This estimate focuses on deaths where people had respiratory disease. This means that reported numbers almost certainly miss some flu deaths, as many people may die from cardiovascular complications of the flu without having respiratory disease.

In low-income countries, these estimates tend to be less certain, due to lower levels of testing for influenza and limited mortality records.

Flu is estimated to be more deadly in countries in South America, Africa, and South Asia than in Europe and North America. Indonesia for example has more than twice the death rate of Canada. These differences are partly due to poverty, poorer underlying health, and lower access to healthcare.

Deaths from influenza fluctuate across the year, with large peaks in winter. The most efficient preventive measure against the flu is to maintain a healthy immune system, and annual vaccination.

Beyond the Common Cold

Unlike the common cold, which has evaded a permanent cure, influenza represents a significant medical concern. Beyond missed work and school, influenza outbreaks lead to considerable economic losses and can result in fatalities. Advanced diagnostic techniques have greatly expanded our understanding of the agents behind this pervasive clinical syndrome. For instance, the Biofire FilmArray Respiratory Panel enables simultaneous detection of multiple respiratory viruses, underscoring the intricacy of respiratory viral infections.

What Are The 5 Facts About Influenza?

Influenza Types:

There are four main types of seasonal influenza viruses – A, B, C, and D. Influenza A and B are the chief culprits behind seasonal epidemics. A viruses’ have subtypes based on two proteins, HA (Hemagglutinin) and NA (Neuraminidase). Presently, subtypes A(H1N1) and A(H3N2) are the primary strains in humans.

Influenza B Lineages:

Unlike A viruses, influenza B viruses are segmented into lineages instead of subtypes. The two main lineages are B/Yamagata and B/Victoria. They mutate more slowly compared to some A strains.

Less Common Variants:

Influenza C is less frequently identified and is typically associated with milder infections. Influenza D primarily affects cattle and is not known to infect humans.


The flu is primarily spread through tiny droplets from coughing, sneezing, or talking. Indirect transmission can occur by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching the face.

WHO (World Health Organization) Perspective:

Respiratory diseases, including those caused by the flu, represent a significant global health burden Conditions like COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), tuberculosis, and asthma have major implications for public health.

How Does Influenza Impact the Respiratory System?

Invading the Host

Upon invasion, the influenza virus triggers a series of reactions in the respiratory system. It initially targets cells in the nose and throat, leading to symptoms like sore throat, cough, and nasal congestion. As the virus replicates, it can move deeper into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs. This can cause inflammation and damage, which could lead to complications like pneumonia, especially in those with compromised immune systems.

Oxidative Stress and Inflammation 

Influenza virus infection instigates oxidative stress, marked by rise in ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species) levels. Oxidative stress and inflammation are intertwined. The increased ROS can damage cells and tissues, and to counter this, the body triggers an inflammatory response. In the context of the flu, this relationship underscores the respiratory complications experienced during severe infections.

Does the Flu Cause Oxidative Stress?

Yes, the influenza virus indeed induces oxidative stress. The presence of the virus accelerates the production of ROS, leading to an imbalance in the body’s antioxidant defence mechanism. Oxidative stress, in turn, can exacerbate inflammation in the respiratory system, compounding the damage.

What causes Oxidative Stress ?

While influenza is a notable contributor, various other factors can cause oxidative stress. Environmental toxins, certain medications, radiation, and infections are some of the other culprits. Recognising what causes oxidative stress is crucial as long exposure can lead to chronic inflammation and an array of health issues, from cardiovascular diseases to cancers.


The effect of influenza and other respiratory viruses cannot be understated. These pathogens not only lead to significant morbidity and mortality but also have far-reaching economic implications. The intrinsic relationship between influenza, oxidative stress, and inflammation presents opportunities for therapeutic interventions. As the healthcare industry advances, so does our understanding of these intricate interactions, paving the way for better management and prevention strategies.

At Helvetica Health Care, we aim to provide efficient testing and diagnostics products that enhance lab research capabilities to detect OS biomarkers. Our range of OXIDATIVE STRESS assay kits and standards is designed to assist in exploring oxidative stress markers and metabolites in human and animal samples and samples exposed to drugs and foods. 

The TBARS (Thiobarbituric Acid Reactive Substances) assay has become the assay of choice for screening and monitoring lipid peroxidation, a primary indicator of oxidative stress. The assay can be used with many types of samples, including drugs, food products and material of human and animal origin, and provides standardised and reproducible results.

Visit the Helvetica Health Care website to purchase Influenza virus related products.