Immune Netw.  2004 Jun;4(2):73-80. 10.4110/in.2004.4.2.73.

Immune Responses to Viral Infection

  • 1Department of Microbiology, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Korea.
  • 2Institute of Endemic Diseases, Seoul National University Medical Research Center, Seoul, Korea.


Viruses are obligate intracellular parasites which cause infection by invading and replicating within cells. The immune system has mechanisms which can attack the virus in extracellular and intracellular phase of life cycle, and which involve both non-specific and specific effectors. The survival of viruses depends on the survival of their hosts, and therefore the immune system and viruses have evolved together. Immune responses to viral infection may be variable depending on the site of infection, the mechanism of cell-to-cell spread of virus, physiology of the host, host genetic variation, and environmental condition. Viral infection of cells directly stimulates the production of interferons and they induce antiviral state in the surrounding cells. Complement system is also involved in the elimination of viruses and establishes the first line of defence with other non-specific immunity. During the course of viral infection, antibody is most effective at an early stage, especially before the virus enters its target cells. The virus- specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes are the principal effector cells in clearing established viral infections. But many viruses have resistant mechanism to host immune responses in every step of viral infection to cells. Some viruses have immune evasion mechanism and establish latency or persistency indefinitely. Furthermore antibodies to some viruses can enhance the disease by the second infection. Immune responses to viral infection are very different from those to bacterial infection.


Viral infection; immune response; neutralizing antibody; complement; cytopathic; mucosal immunity; antibody-dependent enhancement; immune evasion

MeSH Terms

Antibodies, Neutralizing
Antibody-Dependent Enhancement
Bacterial Infections
Complement System Proteins
Genetic Variation
Immune Evasion
Immune System
Immunity, Innate
Immunity, Mucosal
Life Cycle Stages
T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic
Antibodies, Neutralizing
Complement System Proteins
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