A growing body of research has demonstrated that glutathione is a key player in the immune system and the pathology of infection, inflammation and immune-mediated disease [1-4]. The role of free radicals that are generated during the inflammatory response mediated by lymphocytes (white blood cells) and the resulting oxidative stress has been revealed in more detail [5, 6]. The antioxidant defense systems in the aged and those suffering from persistent health issues especially those associated with inflammatory or autoimmune disease has been demonstrated to be weakened [7, 8]. As the first line antioxidant, the maintenance of a healthy homeostatic level of cellular glutathione is critical in keeping the immune system running optimally.
The major reason as to why maintaining a healthy cellular glutathione level is so critical for the immune system is related to the fact that lymphocytes perform their bacterial, viral and cancer cell killing functions by generating large amounts of free radicals including superoxide and hydrogen peroxide. These free radicals are highly toxic and an exquisite fine control is needed to regulate their production and distribution.. Any overproduction of these free radicals can be neutralised by glutathione. However, the pace of oxidant generation can often outstrip the cellular production of glutathione which leads to a cascade of oxidative stress, inflammation and tissue damage.