July 6, 2015
In a study published in Nature Medicine, researchers found that when T cells’ food supply was shut off, their ability to fight against hepatitis B virus infection was disrupted and resulted in the infection penetrating the liver more easily.
“Hepatitis B patients usually don't have symptoms for decades, so [they] can carry the virus unknowingly and can spread it through childbirth, sexual contact or contaminated needles,” Mala K. Maini, PhD, division of infection and immunity at the Institute of Immunity and Transplantation, University College London, United Kingdom, said in a press release. “Our work has shown that during this ‘silent phase’ of infection, specialized suppressor cells switch off the immune response by cutting off its food supply. This is one of the many ways the liver protects itself from inflammation and immune damage, but at the same time, prevents elimination of pathogens like hepatitis B.”