Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

A benefit of flu: Protection from asthma?

Date:
December 14, 2010
Source:
Children's Hospital Boston
Summary:
A new article suggests a new strategy to prevent asthma. Scientists report that the influenza virus infection in young mice protected the mice as adults against the development of allergic asthma. The same protective effect was achieved by treating young mice with compound isolated from the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a bacterium that colonizes the stomach and is best known for causing ulcers and increasing the risk of gastric cancers.

In a paper that suggests a new strategy to prevent asthma, scientists at Children's Hospital Boston and their colleagues report that the influenza virus infection in young mice protected the mice as adults against the development of allergic asthma. The same protective effect was achieved by treating young mice with compound isolated from the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a bacterium that colonizes the stomach and is best known for causing ulcers and increasing the risk of gastric cancers.

The findings, published online December 13 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, provide a potential immunological mechanism in support of the "hygiene hypothesis," an idea that attributes the increasing rate of asthma and allergies to the successful reduction of childhood infections with vaccines and antibiotics. The hygiene hypothesis is also supported by epidemiological studies associating certain childhood infections, such as respiratory viral infections or gastrointestinal infection with H. pylori, with a lower risk of developing asthma.

"Some infections appear to result in important protective effects against asthma," says Dale Umetsu, MD, PhD, of Children's Division of Immunology, a senior author of the paper, and Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. "But we certainly don't want to give people dangerous infections to prevent asthma. So if we can understand how infections prevent asthma, we may be able to replicate the good parts and avoid the bad parts of infection and develop new treatments for children to prevent asthma."

In mice, influenza A infection appeared to confer its benefits by expanding an immature cell type in the lung known as natural killer T (NKT) cells, part of the innate immune system. The same beneficial NKT cells in the lung could be expanded by several NKT-stimulating molecules known as glycolipids, including one isolated from H. pylori.

The active infectious agents protected against asthma only if the mice were exposed when very young (2 weeks). "Flu infection in adult mice makes the allergic reaction worse," says Ya-Jen Chang, PhD, first author and a postdoctoral fellow in Umetsu's lab.

Previous studies examining the hygiene hypothesis have focused on the adaptive immune system, which features immune cells that are slow to respond but are able to develop long-term memory, such as those stimulated by each year's flu vaccine or those involved in seasonal allergies.

In contrast, the new paper examines the innate immune system, which responds rapidly to infections and shapes adaptive immune responses. This study specifically focuses on NKT cells, one of the first responders to many infections. Previous work by Umetsu's team implicated NKT cells as a cause of asthma. In contrast, the latest study reports on a new subset of inhibitory NKT cells that seem to prevent allergic reactions in the airways -- if stimulated at the right time by the right infectious agents or the right glycolipid.

"In the absence of influenza A or the H. pylori compound, we see an expansion of NKT cells that cause asthma and allergies," says Umetsu. "We're now trying to understand how to specifically activate the inhibitory subset of NKT cells. Treatments focused on specifically expanding this inhibitory subset of cells in children might prevent the development of asthma."

The researchers want to explore the therapeutic applications of the H. pylori glycolipid compound, synthesized by British lipid biochemist Petr Illarionov, PhD. "It might be a good candidate for an asthma vaccine," says Chang. Umetsu wants to test the next generation of glycolipid compounds, and to illuminate their specific mechanism of action, with a more detailed characterization of the inhibitory NKT cells.

Funding: US National Institutes of Health, including stimulus funding from the 2009 Recovery Act; Bunning Food Allergy Project; and Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Children's Hospital Boston. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ya-Jen Chang, Hye Young Kim, Lee A. Albacker, Hyun Hee Lee, Nicole Baumgarth, Shizuo Akira, Paul B. Savage, Shin Endo, Takashi Yamamura, Janneke Maaskant, Naoki Kitano, Abel Singh, Apoorva Bhatt, Gurdyal S. Besra, Peter Van Den Elzen, Ben Appelmelk, Richard W. Franck, Guangwu Chen, Rosemarie H. Dekruyff, Michio Shimamura, Petr Illarionov and Dale T. Umetsu. Influenza infection in suckling mice expands an NKT cell subset that protects against airway hyperreactivity. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2010 DOI: 10.1172/JCI44845

Cite This Page:

Children's Hospital Boston. "A benefit of flu: Protection from asthma?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 December 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101213130847.htm>.
Children's Hospital Boston. (2010, December 14). A benefit of flu: Protection from asthma?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101213130847.htm
Children's Hospital Boston. "A benefit of flu: Protection from asthma?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101213130847.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) Liberia's finance minister is urging the international community to quickly follow through on pledges of cash to battle Ebola. Bodies are piling up in the capital Monrovia as the nation awaits more help. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) A Florida doctor who helped fight the expanding Ebola outbreak in West Africa says the disease can be stopped, but only if nations quickly step up their response and make border control a priority. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) More than 100 tons of medical supplies were sent to West Africa on Saturday, but aid workers say the global response is still sluggish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) Sierra Leone residents remained in lockdown on Saturday as part of a massive effort to confine millions of people to their homes in a bid to stem the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. (Sept. 20) 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