Researchers find interleukin-22 may prevent post-influenza infections

Researchers from the Pasteur Institute, Lille, France recently discovered the cytokine interleukin-22 can protect mice against bacterial superinfection, which is often present after an influenza infection.

The study was published in the June Issue of the Journal of Virology. It has the potential to be important in the fight against post-influenza superinfections, which include pneumonia, secondary bacterial pnneumonia and sepsis, if trials are successful in humans.

"Mouse studies have revealed that impairment of the host innate immune defense, as well as lung damage caused by the virus are cardinal features of bacterial superinfection," author of the study Francois Trottein said.

Scientists studied interleukin-22 and the role it hypothetically plays in mucosal immunity, inflammation and tissue repair. Interleukin-22 naturally occurs in the body after an infection and was believed to play a protective role.

Researchers found when interleukin-22 wasn't present after infection, pathogens in the lungs were aggravated and exacerbated epithelial damage caused by the influenza virus. The study must be fully elucidated, but it did help protect the mice from secondary bacterial infections.

"If it works as well in humans, the production of interleukin-22 could confer a substantial benefit on patients having flu," Trottein said.