Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Scientists learn why the flu may turn deadly

New research published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology suggests that the influenza virus 'paralyzes' the immune system

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

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."

The Journal of Leukocyte Biology ( publishes peer-reviewed manuscripts on original investigations focusing on the cellular and molecular biology of leukocytes and on the origins, the developmental biology, biochemistry and functions of granulocytes, lymphocytes, mononuclear phagocytes and other cells involved in host defense and inflammation. The Journal of Leukocyte Biology is published by the Society for Leukocyte Biology.

Details: Meredith L. Heltzer, Susan E. Coffin, Kelly Maurer, Asen Bagashev, Zhe Zhang, Jordan S. Orange, and Kathleen E. Sullivan. Immune dysregulation in severe influenza. doi:10.1189/jlb.1108710.

Cody Mooneyhan | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>