The effects of rimantadine on lymphocyte responses to mitogens CON-A and PHA, natural killer cell activity, and the development of serum and local antibodies were studied during an epidemic outbreak of influenza A (H3N2). Twenty-three families consisting of 38 adults and 46 children had a member who developed a flu-like illness and were randomly assigned to receive placebo or rimantadine either as treatment or post exposure prophylaxis. Nasal washings for virus isolation and IgG and IgA determination were collected on days 1, 5, and 10 of illness. Blood samples for immunologic studies were obtained on days 1 and 5 of clinical illness and on day 21. No differences in lymphocyte responses to CON-A and PHA or in natural-killer cell activity were noted between placebo and rimantadine groups. The development of neutralizing antibodies to influenza H3N2 was also not affected by rimantadine. However, the presence of IgA in nasal secretions was significantly diminished in the rimantadine group compared to the placebo group (0/9 vs. 619, P < 0.005).
The findings indicate that rimantadine had no adverse affect on the systemic immune system. However, local immune response was diminished in individuals taking rimantadine possibly due to the presence of less immunogen resulting from reduction of virus in secretions of individuals taking antivirals.