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Not just a long-distance relationship: Immune cells in skin fight off infection better than the rest
Date:4/7/2009

immune system to attack the body's own cells.

The March paper focuses on the stage after infection has subsided, where some cells retain the ability to recognize the shape of the virus or bacteria - understandably called memory T cells.

Again using the animal model of infection with the cold sore virus, researchers found that memory T cells in the skin provide local immunity against pathogens.

"Because the cells are located at the site of infection, they can respond instantly, much faster than other immune cells that have to travel via the blood to the site," said Dr Thomas Gebhardt from the University of Melbourne's Department of Microbiology and Immunology, who is the lead author on the March paper.

"This debunks previous thought that immunity by T cells only occurs at longer distances throughout the body."

Skin-resident memory T cells provide efficient and long-lasting immunity against skin reinfection with the same virus, resulting in better antiviral protection in skin areas harbouring elevated numbers of these cells.

It is proposed that the generation of large numbers of resident memory cells in these organs represents an important goal for future vaccination strategies.

"Vaccines are of interest because we want to prevent the infection taking hold in the first place," said Dr Gebhardt.

"This is especially important with the cold sore virus because while the immune response is developing against the initial infection, the virus can hide away in our nerve cells. The virus then remains dormant until the immune system is weakened by stress and the dreaded cold sore returns."


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Contact: Nerissa Hannink
nhannink@unimelb.edu.au
61-383-448-151
University of Melbourne
Source:Eurekalert

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