Human monocytes/macrophages play a central role in the immune response and defense of the host from influenza virus infection. They classically act as antigen-presenting cells for lymphocytes in the context of an immune cell cluster. In that setting, however, monocytes/macrophages exhibit additional, unexpected, roles. They are required for influenza virus infection of the lymphocytes in the cluster, and they are responsible for lymphocyte apoptosis via their synthesis and expression of the viral neuraminidase. Surprisingly, human alveolar macrophages, expected to be among the first cells to encounter the virus, are not susceptible to direct infection by a human influenza virus but can be infected when the virus is complexed with an antibody. Such monocyte/macrophage responses to influenza virus challenge should be considered part of a very complex but quite effective defense, since the common outcome is recovery of the host with development of immunity to the challenging strain of virus.
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