Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists Learn Why The Flu May Turn Deadly: Influenza Virus 'Paralyzes' The Immune System

Date:
May 5, 2009
Source:
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Summary:
As the swine flu continues its global spread, researchers have discovered important clues about why influenza is more severe in some people than it is in others. In a new study, the scientists show that the influenza virus can actually paralyze the immune systems of otherwise healthy individuals, leading to severe secondary bacterial infections, such as pneumonia.

As the swine flu continues its global spread, researchers from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have discovered important clues about why influenza is more severe in some people than it is in others.

Related Articles


In their research study published online in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, the scientists show that the influenza virus can actually paralyze the immune systems of otherwise healthy individuals, leading to severe secondary bacterial infections, such as pneumonia. Furthermore, this immunological paralysis can be long-lived, which is important to know when developing treatment strategies to combat the virus.

According to Kathleen Sullivan, M.D., Ph.D., the senior researcher involved in the study and Chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, "We have a very limited understanding of why some people who get influenza simply have a bad cold and other people become very sick and even die. The results of this study give us a much better sense of the mechanisms underlying bacterial infections arising on top of the viral infection."

Sullivan and colleagues recruited pediatric patients with severe influenza and examined the level of cytokines, which serve as the first line initiators of immune response, in the blood plasma. Although they found elevated levels of cytokines, they also found a decreased response of toll-like receptors, which activate immune cell responses as a result of invading microbes. This suggests that the diminished response of these receptors may be responsible for the paralysis of the immune system, leading to secondary bacterial infections.

The influenza patients were compared with patients with moderate influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, and a control group of healthy individuals. The immune paralysis appeared to be specifically a result of influenza infection and was not seen in patients with respiratory syncytial virus. This process might explain why one quarter of children who die from influenza, die from a bacterial infection occurring on top of the virus.

"Despite major medical advances since the devastating flu outbreak of 1918 and 1919, influenza virus infection remains a very serious threat," said John Wherry, Ph.D., Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, "and the current swine flu outbreak is a grim reminder of this fact. The work by Dr. Sullivan and colleagues brings us a step closer to understanding exactly what goes wrong in some people who get the flu, so, ultimately, physicians can develop more effective treatment strategies."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Meredith L. Heltzer, Susan E. Coffin, Kelly Maurer, Asen Bagashev, Zhe Zhang, Jordan S. Orange, and Kathleen E. Sullivan. Immune dysregulation in severe influenza. Journal of Leukocyte Biology, 2009; DOI: 10.1189/jlb.1108710

Cite This Page:

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. "Scientists Learn Why The Flu May Turn Deadly: Influenza Virus 'Paralyzes' The Immune System." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 May 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090504141843.htm>.
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. (2009, May 5). Scientists Learn Why The Flu May Turn Deadly: Influenza Virus 'Paralyzes' The Immune System. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090504141843.htm
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. "Scientists Learn Why The Flu May Turn Deadly: Influenza Virus 'Paralyzes' The Immune System." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090504141843.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) It's hard to resist those delicious but fattening carbs we all crave during the winter months, but there are some ways to stay satisfied without consuming the extra calories. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins