Antiviral Defense from the Gut

Study looks at gut bacteria role in resistance to viral infections
digital xray image of the gut

Image: ChrisChrisW/iStock/Getty Images Plus

The role of the gut microbiome in disease and health has been well established. Yet, how the bacteria residing in our guts protect us from viral infections is not well understood.

Now, for the first time, Harvard Medical School researchers have described how this happens in mice and have identified the specific population of gut microbes that modulates both localized and systemic immune response to ward off viral invaders.

The work, published Nov. 18 in Cell, pinpoints a group of gut microbes, and a specific species within it, that causes immune cells to release virus-repelling chemicals known as type 1 interferons.

The researchers further identified the precise molecule—shared by many gut bacteria within that group—that unlocks the immune-protective cascade. That molecule, the researchers noted, is not difficult to isolate and could become the basis for drugs that boost antiviral immunity in humans. (See link for article)


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