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予防接種、インフルエンザ、注射
予防接種、インフルエンザ、注射

インフルエンザが潜伏しているとき、体内では何が起きているのか

注射

発症するまで感染してしまっていることに気付かないインフルエンザですが、ウィルス感染症の病気の中では感染から発症までの期間がダントツに早いのがインフルエンザの特徴です。

それでも、感染してから発症までは誰も気づくことはできません。急激に症状が発すると言ってもやはり感染してからの潜伏期間というものはあります。

では、インフルエンザウィルスに感染して病状が発症するまでの潜伏している時に、体の中では一体どのようなことが起きているのでしょうか?今回はこの潜伏期の体内の様子を学んでいくことにしましょう。

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感染から発症までの流れ

まず、潜伏状態にあたる感染から発症まで、どのように感染して発症に至るのかを説明していきます。

インフルエンザ感染の経緯

注射

インフルエンザウィルスに感染する経路は、大きく二つに分かれます。一つは飛沫感染、もう一つは接触感染です。

飛沫感染というのは、感染者がくしゃみや咳をした場合に体から排出されたインフルエンザウィルスが空気中に飛散しているものを吸い込んでしまったり、顔や目に付着したものが体内に侵入した場合に感染する経路を言います。

インフルエンザウィルスは、空気中に放出されると数時間ほどで死滅しますが、人の体内から排出される際には粘液や体液などの微粒子とともに排出されます。すると、空気中に放出されたウィルスは長時間死滅せずに空気中を漂ってしまったり、他の生活環境に付着したりします。

もう一つの接触感染は、感染者の排出したウィルスがドアノブやスイッチなどに付着したり、あるいは直接感染者が触れたりしてウィルスが付着したものに未感染者が触れ、その手で目をこすったり鼻や口に触れたりすることで感染する経路を言います。

いずれにしても、目には見えないのでいつどこにウィルスがあるのかが判断できないため、誰でもインフルエンザウィルスに感染してしまう可能性があると言えます。

感染後のウィルスの動向

インフルエンザウィルスを吸い込んでから鼻や喉の粘膜に付着するのですが、付着してから細胞組織に侵入するまではおよそ20分ほどといわれています。

さらに細胞に侵入すると増殖を始めますが、その増殖のスピードが速いことで他の感染症ウィルスより発症に至るまでが早いという事がわかっています。

インフルエンザウィルスの増殖数は、最初数個ほどのウィルスが100個に達するまでには8時間前後、さらに8時間経過した16時間の時点で100倍の10,000個さらに8時間経過した感染後24時間ではまた100倍の1,000,000個にまで達します。

ただし、この増殖率はワクチンや他の予防方法を実施していない場合の増殖数ですので、もちろんワクチン接種や他の感染予防策を講じていた場合には増殖スピードをもっと抑えることができます。

インフルエンザウィルスの増殖が進むにつれて、体内では免疫機能が働きウィルスを排除しようとします。すると、ウィルスを撃退するために必要な体温を上昇させ、体内から排出するために咳やくしゃみ・鼻水、場合によっては下痢や嘔吐の症状が出てきます。こうしてインフルエンザの症状が出始めて初めて感染したという事に気付くというわけです。

ウィルス増殖に対する免疫機能の働き

では、インフルエンザウィルスに感染してから発症するまでのウィルスの増殖は上記の流れで起こりますが、それに対する人体の免疫機能がどのように働いているのかを説明していきましょう。

ウィルスを察知する

ウィルスは他の細胞に寄生することで知られていますが、その機能は貪食細胞であるマクロファージというものが働いています。このような異物を発見すると、それが有害なものであるという信号を発するために抗ウィルス活性のタンパク質が生成されます。

このタンパク質には、T細胞を活性化させるIL12、TNFαという腫瘍壊死因子、INFαというNK細胞の活性化やキラー細胞の活性化を促すほか抗体の生産をつかさどるものがあります。

ウィルス排除の活動を開始する

抗ウィルスタンパク質が生成されると、それらをキャッチした免疫細胞が一斉に働き始めます。

まず最初に働き始めるのがNK細胞で、この細胞は単身でインフルエンザウィルスを排除しようと働きます。機能が十分に発揮されるまでには1~2日ほどかかるため、感染してからすぐに症状が出てこないのはそのためです。

次に働き始めるのが抗体やキラー細胞です。これらの細胞が活発に働き始めることで症状が出始めて徐々にウィルスを排除していくわけです。

感染予防が抗体細胞の働きを助ける

インフルエンザワクチンを接種すると、一定期間はこれらの抗ウィルス細胞がすでに臨戦状態でウィルスの侵入を待っていてくれます。

未接種の場合にはウィルスが増殖し始めてからやっと抗体に働きかける物質を生成し、その信号を受け取って初めて抗体細胞が活性化していくわけですから、インフルエンザの症状が重くなるのも当然というわけです。

ワクチンの接種を受けていることでウィルスが増殖し始めた時にはすでに抗体細胞が働き始めていますので、症状が発するまでに至らずに済んだり、たとえ発症しても軽度の症状で済ませることができるのです。

また、ワクチン接種以外の予防方法もとても大切で、体内環境を整えたり免疫力を普段から高めておくことで抗ウィルス物質の生成も早くなり、また抗体細胞の活性化も早くなることができます。

インフルエンザの予防をしっかりとしておくことが感染予防にも症状の軽減にも効果的な要因は、これらの出来事が体内で起こっているからにほかなりません。

一生インフルエンザにかからない体質の作り方
村上 一裕
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まとめ:症状の重い軽いは潜伏状況で大きく異なる

インフルエンザウィルスが体内に潜伏している時というのは、その後のインフルエンザの症状がどうなっていくのかに大きくかかわっているという事がわかったことと思います。

何も予防せずにただインフルエンザの増殖を許してしまうのではなく、予め予防をすることでウィルスの増殖に合わせてウィルス排除の働きを助け、発症を抑えることも症状を軽くすることもできるという事をよく理解しておきましょう。

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