Int J Sports Med 2003; 24(7): 541-547
DOI: 10.1055/s-2003-42018
© Georg Thieme Verlag Stuttgart · New York

Immune and Oxidative Changes During and Following the Western States Endurance Run

D.  C.  Nieman1 , C.  I.  Dumke1 , D.  A.  Henson1 , S.  R.  McAnulty1 , L.  S.  McAnulty1 , R.  H.  Lind1 , J.  D.  Morrow2
  • 1Departments of Health, Leisure, and Exercise Science; Biology; Family and Consumer Sciences; Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, USA
  • 2Departments of Medicine and Pharmacology, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennesse, USA
Further Information

Publication History

Accepted after revision: March 15, 2003

Publication Date:
10 September 2003 (online)


Changes in immune and oxidative stress parameters were measured in ultramarathon runners competing in the 160-km Western States Endurance Run. Forty-five runners agreed to provide blood and saliva samples the morning before the race event, at the 90-km aid station, and 5 - 10 min post-race. Upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) during the two-week period post-race was assessed retrospectively by telephone interviews. Forty subjects completed 90-km (race time, 13.1 ± 0.3 h), and 31 completed the 160-km race event (27.0 ± 0.4 h). The blood neutrophil and monocyte counts rose 249 % and 214 %, respectively, in the 31 finishers. Salivary IgA (sIgA) secretion rate decreased significantly from 508 ± 40 µg/min pre-race, to 287 ± 39 µg/min at 90-km, and 254 ± 30 µg/min post-race (50 % decrease). Significant increases were measured in cytokines at 90-km and post-race, with post-race IL-10 increasing 9.5-fold, IL-1ra 6.1-fold, IL-6 50.2-fold, and IL-8 2.5-fold over pre-race levels. Post-race indicators of oxidative stress, F2-isoprostane and lipid hydroperoxides, increased 33 % and 88 %, respectively. Pearson product-moment correlations revealed positive correlations at 90-km between F2-isoprostane and IL-6 (r = 0.31, p = 0.048), IL-10 (r = 0.31, p = 0.050), and IL-8 (r = 0.43, p = 0.005), but no other significant relationships between immune and oxidative stress indicators at 90-km and post-race. In the group of runners completing at least 90 km of the race, 26 % reported an URTI episode during the two-week period post-race. A low sIgA secretion rate at 90-km was the best predictor of post-race URTI (173 ± 34 µg/min in those who later acquired URTI compared to 325 ± 40 µg/min in those without URTI, p = 0.007). In conclusion, a modest correlation was found between cytokines and F2-isoprostane at 90-km when the greatest oxidative stress occurred, but no other significant correlations in immune and oxidative stress indicators during and following a 160-km ultramarathon race event were noted. About one in four ultramarathoners reported URTI during the two-week period post-race, and a low sIgA secretion rate mid-race best predicted URTI occurrence.


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D. C. Nieman, Dr.PH, FACSM

Department of Health & Exercise Science

Appalachian State University · Boone · North Carolina 28608 · USA

Phone: +1 828 262 6318

Fax: +1 828 262 3138