We depend on the disease-fighting immune system to protect us from flu infections or to help us recover if we catch the virus. Now there is evidence the immune system can also help to predict which flu patients will develop severe symptoms and wind up in the hospital.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital scientists led the study. Investigators found that patients with higher levels of certain immune system regulators early in the infection were more likely than others to suffer more and develop serious complications.
“This suggests there is an immune signature that could help doctors identify who needs closer monitoring or maybe more aggressive treatment,” said corresponding author Paul Thomas, Ph.D., an assistant member of the St. Jude Department of Immunology. The findings could lead to better therapies to prevent deadly flu complications.
The study also helps to explain why flu infections pose a significant risk to children age 2 and younger. The work appears in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
February 10, 2014