Introduction: Consistent, moderate-to-vigorous-intensity exercise has been associated with a lower risk of upper respiratory tract infection (URI). However, the molecular basis for this apparent protection has not yet been fully resolved. Host-derived lipids such as cholesteryl esters (CE) have emerged as important effector molecules of innate defense against infections. Here, we compared antimicrobial CE in nasal fluid before and after moderate-to-vigorous exercise between active and inactive subjects.
Methods: Nasal fluid was collected from 14 healthy, recreationally active subjects (32 ± 11 yr, 7 men and 7 women) and 14 healthy, inactive subjects (25 ± 3 yr, 7 men and 7 women) before and after treadmill exercise at 70% heart rate reserve. Nasal fluid was analyzed for lysozyme, cholesteryl linoleate (CL), cholesteryl arachidonate (CA), and albumin (Alb) concentrations.
Results: Baseline concentrations (mean ± SEM, inactive vs active) of lysozyme (117.7 ± 31.1 vs 122.9 ± 15.5 μg·mL−1), CL + CA (15.3 ± 1.8 vs 26.2 ± 10.05 μg·mL−1), and Alb (156.6 ± 54.5 vs 126.9 ± 32.8 μg·mL−1) were similar to previously reported levels and did not differ significantly between study groups. However, postexercise, CL + CA concentration was significantly lower in inactive compared with active subjects (7.8 ± 1.5 vs 20.1 ± 4.8 μg·mL−1, P = 0.036) dropping below the antimicrobial effective range. Once adjusted to Alb concentrations, the changes were no longer significant, suggesting that plasma transudation accounted for the increased CA + CL concentration postexercise in the active group relative to the inactive group.
Conclusions: Moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise acutely decreases the antimicrobial CE response in inactive subjects but does not modify baseline levels of CE between active and inactive subjects. This suggests that compared with active individuals, inactive individuals may be at greater risk for upper respiratory tract infection immediately postexercise.