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Mere Sight of Sick Person May Boost Immune System

Slideshow of ill people triggered greater response than pictures of gun-wielding men

THURSDAY, April 29 (HealthDay News) -- Just seeing a sick person may give your immune system a boost, a new study claims.

Canadian researchers showed participants two sets of slides on two different days. The first set was neutral, displaying pictures of furniture. The second set was either a slideshow that showed photos of people with pox, blowing their noses, sneezing and other obvious signs of illness, or a slideshow of people with guns.

Before and after each slideshow, blood samples were taken from the volunteers. The researchers added bacteria to the blood samples to test for immune response. The participants who saw the slide show of sick people had a stronger immune response than those who viewed the pictures of men aiming guns at them.

A strong immune response to the sight of people who are sick may have been an evolutionary adaptation, according to the University of British Columbia researchers.

"It seems like it's probably good for the immune system to be responding especially aggressively at times when it looks like you are likely to be coming into contact with something that might make you sick," study author Mark Schaller said in a news release.

The findings appear online April 26 in the journal Psychological Science.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more about the immune system.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Association for Psychological Science, news release, April 26, 2010

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