Introduction

Arginine is a semi-essential amino acid in mammals. While dietary arginine is not an absolute requirement under normal conditions, it can become essential at times of growth and metabolic stress, such as following trauma, sepsis or burn injuries. This dibasic amino acid is found in all mammalian cells and is an intermediate in many metabolic pathways from protein synthesis to energy storage to the clearance of nitrogenous waste. The importance of arginine for the normal functioning of the immune system has become progressively apparent over the last 15 years and has led to the development of arginine-supplemented enteral feeding regimes and the concept of immunonutrition (for a review, see Evoy et a!., 1998).

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