The scientists found DC-SIGN+ macrophages in both types of leprosy infections. The CD1b+ cells were present only in the milder form, indicating a successful battle against the leprosy bacterium. They were missing, however, in the more severe leprosy infections, meaning that the monocytes hadn't succeeded in producing those key anti-bacterial fighters.
"The logic here is that because their monocytes are unable to produce the [CD1b+] cells that can mobilize T-cells, these people don't respond well and become much sicker," commented Bloom. "This research gives us insights about how the body develops protective immunity against bugs that invade our cells--or fails to. Now we know the players, and we would love to look at them in other diseases such as tuberculosis in the lungs and juvenile diabetes."
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