Hasty Immune Response Works in Favor of Chronic Viral Infections

Lauren Santye, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Monday, November 14th, 2016
The immune system’s poor defense against chronic viral infections has been explained after the discovery of a fundamental new mechanism.

During infection or viral vaccination, B cells produce antibodies that bind to the viruses and inactivate them. But with chronic viral infections such as hepatitis C or HIV, B cell antibody production is inadequate and also starts far too late.

The results of a study published in Science Immunology found that the inadequate antibody response to chronic viral diseases is due to strong inflammatory reactions upon infection. These findings may lead to a different approach for the development of vaccinations.

Interferons begin to influence B cells to produce as many antibodies as possible. However, the hasty immune response lasts only for a short-time. In fact, the B cells that turn on antibody production quickly end up losing their ability to proliferate, causing them to die out shortly after.

This response seems to be most beneficial to acute life threatening infections, however, the researchers noted that when it comes to chronic infections, the hasty response may actually favor the virus.

Although there are no protective vaccinations available for HIV or hepatitis C, the study authors hope that their findings could help improve vaccination approaches against these chronic viruses.

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