PURPOSE: Habitual intense exercise may increase the incidence of upper respiratory symptoms (URS) in elite athletes. This study investigated whether immune gene expression could identify gene markers that discriminate athletes with a higher prevalence of URS.
METHODS: This cross-sectional analysis of elite Australian athletes from various sports investigated whether athletes retrospectively reporting URS for two days or more in a month (n=38), had an altered immune gene expression profile compared with asymptomatic athletes (n=33). Peripheral blood samples were collected during Olympic selection events with corresponding URS data collected for the one-month period before sampling. Digital immune gene expression analysis was undertaken using the NanoString PanCancer Immune Profiling panel.
RESULTS: Fifty immune genes were differentially expressed between the groups (p<0.05) and approximately 78% of these genes were more highly expressed in athletes reporting URS. Many of these genes were interferon-stimulated genes or genes involved in the Jak/Stat signalling pathway. Only interferon alpha inducible protein 27 (IFI27), an interferon stimulated gene involved in viral response, remained significantly higher in athletes reporting URS (log2 fold-difference=2.49, odds ratio 1.02 per unit increase; p<0.01) post-adjustment and discriminated athletes reporting URS from asymptomatic athletes with 78% accuracy.
CONCLUSIONS: Expression of IFI27 could differentiate athletes reporting URS from asymptomatic athletes, a gene that is upregulated in the immune response to viral infection. Upregulation of viral signalling pathways provides novel information on the potential aetiology of URS in elite Olympic athletes.
|Number of pages||23|
|Journal||Exercise Immunology Review|
|Publication status||Published - 2020|