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Study unravels immune mechanism that prevents sepsis

Posted:  Monday, March 28, 2016

Prevention and treatment of life-threatening infections is an important area of research. A recent study by British researchers sheds light on how the immune system keeps these deadly infections at bay. The study showed that the immune system thwarts serious infections by keeping the gut bacteria in check.

The study, published in the journal Science, looked at the role of the gut barrier and the immune system in preventing infections. The gut contains an enormous number of bacteria. If these bacteria leak into the bloodstream from the gut, they can cause infections in other parts of the body. If left untreated, these infections can turn deadly.

Specialised immune cells called innate lymphoid cells keep the bacteria in check by maintaining a barrier between the gut and the rest of the body. The study found that a molecule called "PGE2" activates these immune cells. When "PGE2" fails to function correctly or is blocked, these cells do not get activated. Consequently, the gut barrier breaks down, causing bacteria to enter the bloodstream.

This study is important because it paves the way for the development of new approaches to avert whole-body infections, which can turn deadly if not detected early. Commenting on the study, researcher Chengcan Yao from the University Of Edinburgh said, "Gut barrier injury can lead to the often deadly disease known as sepsis, which is one of the biggest killers of critically-ill patients. Our study reveals a new approach that could be exploited as a treatment to help prevent one of the common causes of sepsis.”

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