Private MD News
| Liver Diseases
Scientists identify white blood cell that may fight hepatitis A
Updated: 2012-07-17 13:13:19 CST Category: Liver Diseases
Individuals who are worried about their liver health may want to take a lab test to find out whether they are immune against or infected by the virus that causes hepatitis A. Researchers are continuing to study the body's immune response to this virus in order to understand the best way to tackle it. Recently, one team of scientists identified a cell in the immune system that may be responsible for launching the main defense.
Previous studies demonstrated that killer T cells fight hepatitis B and C by destroying infected liver cells, causing organ damage in the process. In order to investigate whether the same process works against hepatitis A, a team of scientists conducted a study in animal models of the disease.
Results showed that killer T cells did not launch the main defense against hepatitis A. Instead, the helper T cells, also known as CD4+ cells, fought the virus by secreting special factors. This process did not damage the liver.
Further research is needed to verify these effects in humans.
"If CD4+ T cells have an immune surveillance function, as suggested by our findings, patients at greatest risk of relapsing liver disease may benefit from a vaccine that would boost helper T cell activity until the virus is finally cleared from the liver," said researcher Christopher Walker, Ph.D.
These findings are important considering that 20 percent of patients experience a relapse weeks after the disease appears to subside. A lab test may help identify high-risk individuals.
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