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 March 28, 2015 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 March 28, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

S. Leone in New Anti-Ebola Lockdown

S. Leone in New Anti-Ebola Lockdown

AFP (Mar. 28, 2015) — Sierra Leone imposed a three-day nationwide lockdown Friday for the second time in six months in a bid to prevent a resurgence of the deadly Ebola virus. Duration: 01:17 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
These Popular Antibiotics Can Cause Permanent Nerve Damage

These Popular Antibiotics Can Cause Permanent Nerve Damage

Newsy (Mar. 27, 2015) — A popular class of antibiotic can leave patients in severe pain and even result in permanent nerve damage. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
WH Plan to Fight Antibiotic-Resistant Germs

WH Plan to Fight Antibiotic-Resistant Germs

AP (Mar. 27, 2015) — The White House on Friday announced a five-year plan to fight the threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria amid fears that once-treatable germs could become deadly. (March 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
House Ready to Pass Medicare Doc Bill

House Ready to Pass Medicare Doc Bill

AP (Mar. 26, 2015) — In rare bipartisan harmony, congressional leaders pushed a $214 billion bill permanently blocking physician Medicare cuts toward House passage Thursday, moving lawmakers closer to resolving a problem that has plagued them for years. (March 26) Video provided by AP
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