n International SportMed Journal - Exercise effects on mucosal immunity and risk of upper respiratory illness : review article




This review evaluates the impact of exercise-induced changes in local immunity and the role of monitoring salivary IgA to identify the risk of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI).

Data was sourced from primary research published in referred journals between 1980 - March 2003. Unpublished data from our own research has been included where appropriate.
Only studies utilising salivary IgA (Sal-IgA) to monitor mucosal immune status and evaluate changes in Sal-IgA in response to exercise at various intensities, in individuals of differing ages and fitness levels, and following dietary interventions were included. The relationship between Sal-IgA and URTI was assessed.
There is considerable analytical and biological variance in the measures of Sal-IgA. High intensity exercise-induced Sal-IgA suppression may persist for several hours or days. Repeated, high intensity exercise in some individuals can elicit long-term Sal-IgA suppression, which is reversible. Moderate exercise enhances local immunity, which is greater in aerobically fitter individuals. Lower levels of Sal-IgA are associated with an increased risk of URTI in elite endurance athletes of varying ages, sports and fitness. A role for monitoring Sal-IgA has only been demonstrated for the long-term prediction of URTI risk on an individual basis. Sal-IgA is only a marginal predictor of short-term risk due to a high degree of analytical and biological variability.
Moderate exercise has the potential to improve mucosal immunity, while repetitive intense exercise can be immunosuppressive. Monitoring of Sal-IgA can be useful in research and clinical settings, but requires consideration of the factors affecting mucosal immune status.


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