Modulation of host defence against bacterial and viral infections by omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids

Marie Odile Husson, Delphine Ley, Céline Portal, Madeleine Gottrand, Thomas Hueso, Jean Luc Desseyn, Frédéric Gottrand

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Objectives Although n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 LC-PUFAs) are used widely in the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases, their effect in infectious disease requires a particular attention. Methods The present article discusses their anti-inflammatory and immune properties involved in the host defence and presents a systematic review of the effects of their oral administration on the prevention and outcome of experimental and clinical infections. Results At a dose corresponding to an human dose of 500 mg/day, n-3 LC-PUFAs intake is beneficial against experimental infections caused by extracellular pathogens including Streptococcus pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, and Staphylococcus aureus by reducing inflammation, and reduces the incidence of pneumococcal infections in the elderly, but at 2–4-fold higher doses as occurs in some human intervention and/or during long-term it becomes detrimental in intestinal infections with Citrobacter rodentium or Helicobacter hepaticus by exacerbating anti-inflammatory response. They are also harmful against infections caused by intracellular pathogens as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Salmonella, Influenza virus and Herpes simplex virus by affecting the immune cell response. Conclusion The effects of n-3-LC-PUFAs on infections depend on the pathogen and the n-3 LC-PUFA dose and timing. Caution should be recommended for high-dose and long-term supplementation in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-535
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Infection
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Immunomodulatory
  • Infection
  • Outcome
  • Prevention
  • n-3 LC-PUFA


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