Those suffering from allergic asthma may be less able to fight off viral infections.

New research from UT Southwestern Medical Center , published in the June edition of The Journal of Immunology, suggests that the immune systems of those suffering from allergic asthmatic reactions to pet dander, dust mites, mould etc may be less able to cope with viruses such as influenza.

Of the 56 people in the study (age range – 3 to 35 years) 26 suffered from allergic asthma; the remaining 30 made up the control group. Most of the participants were African-American and those in the asthma group had been diagnosed by a physician and had a positive skin test to at least one indoor allergen.

Researchers first isolated immune cells called dendritic cells from study participants. These cells are found in blood and tissues that are in contact with the environment, such as skin and the linings of the nose and lungs. When they encounter respiratory viruses such as flu, dendritic cells normally produce proteins that help the body mobilise the immune system to fight the infection. When the dendritic cells encounter an allergen their ability to produce the anti-viral proteins is significantly impaired.

When investigators exposed the dendritic cells from the study participants with allergic asthma to influenza, they found that the cells were unable to produce interferon, an immune system protein that plays a key role in fighting off repeated infections of the same virus.

This would suggest that when the cold/flu and allergy seasons collide, the immune response in individuals with allergic asthma may be poor so they are more likely to suffer from viral infections.

Courtesy of Medical News Today


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0First Published in May 2005


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