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To further understand the role of cytokine responses in symptom formation and host defenses in influenza infection, we determined the levels of IL-1beta, IL-2, IL-6, IL-8, IFN-alpha, TGF-beta, and TNF-alpha in nasal lavage fluid, plasma, and serum obtained serially from 19 volunteers experimentally infected with influenza A/Texas/36/91 (H1N1) and correlated these levels with various measures of infection and illness severity. We found that IL-6 and IFN-alpha levels in nasal lavage fluids peaked early (day 2) and correlated directly with viral titers, temperature, mucus production, and symptom scores. IL-6 elevations were also found in the circulation at this time point. In contrast, TNF-alpha responses peaked later (day 3 in plasma, day 4 in nasal fluids), when viral shedding and symptoms were subsiding. Similarly, IL-8 peaked late in the illness course (days 4-6) and correlated only with lower respiratory symptoms, which also occurred late. None of IL-1beta, IL-2, or TGF-beta levels increased significantly. These data implicate IL-6 and IFN-alpha as key factors both in symptom formation and host defense in influenza.