Thursday, May 18, 2017

Tapping the innate immune system’s infection response

Tapping the innate immune system’s infection response
Seán Duke | 18 May 2017
In Ireland, hundreds of rhesus negative women were infected with hepatitis C from contaminated anti-D blood products they received after they gave birth between 1977 and 1979.

Some readers will recall that 12 years passed before any of the women knew that the anti-D they had received was contaminated, when a major ‘look back’ exercise was initiated. This investigation found that over 600 women had evidence of having been infected; with half having antibodies and the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in their systems and half having antibodies against HCV but no virus. In the latter case, this indicated that the women’s adaptive immune systems had helped resolve their infection. However, some other women that received anti-D showed no sign of having been infected and scientists wondered why.

When scientists at Trinity, led by Prof O’Farrelly, investigated this group of people more closely, they found that many of the women had received anti-D from batches that had very low viral loads – too low to cause infection. The Trinity researchers also estimated that almost 400 women received anti-D that was contaminated with a significant viral load, but were not infected and there was no sign of a strong response by the adaptive immune system.

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