JUL 28, 2016 10:19 AM PDT

New Anti-Pneumonia Technique In The Face of Antibiotic Resistance

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker
A molecule involved in boosting the immune response in cases of cancer has now been associated with bacterial pneumonia as well. With antibiotic resistance on the rise, scientists are hopeful that the inclusion of enhancing this target molecule could be the answer to helping the immune system gain speed on a more natural form of attack that won’t necessarily rely on antibiotic drugs.
Lung tissue was infected by pneumonia bacteria | Image: Alexandra Bettina
The protagonist of today’s story is a cytokine called macrophage-colony stimulating factor, or M-CSF. In the past, scientists noticed that a M-CSF deficiency led to a 10-fold increase of bacteria in the lungs in mice models of pneumonia. The deficiency also resulted in bacteremia, liver infection, and more deaths. In a new study today from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, researchers dove deeper into the relationship between M-CSF and the immune response to bacterial pneumonia. 

Dr.  Borna Mehrad, MBBS and his team first blocked M-CSF activity in mice with bacterial pneumonia and saw fewer monocytes in the lung. Monocytes are the immunological precursor to macrophages, the cells that engulf and destroy foreign cells. Mehrad’s initial thought? The M-CSF deficiency was preventing the needed amount of monocytes to be produced to fight the infection in the lungs. Mehrad’s hypothesis makes sense, but a PhD student in his lab took the theory one step further.

Alexandra Bettina went back to the original source of monocytes: the bone marrow. Interestingly enough, in the same mice that were suffering from an M-CSF and monocyte deficiency in the lungs, their bone marrow and blood vessels contained a normal, healthy amount of monocytes. Putting two and two together, Bettina and Mehrad realized that M-CSF deficiency wasn’t inhibiting monocyte production;  it was inhibiting the activity of monocytes already produced. 
Pneumonia bacteria is growing on a plate | Image: Alexandra Bettina
More research gave the pair a fuller picture of the relationship between M-CSF and monocyte activity in the lung. The cytokine seemed to help monocytes survive in the lung once they arrived to fight the bacterial pneumonia infection by releasing pro-inflammatory chemokines and generally boosting innate immunity and the inflammatory process.

“Some people with weakened immunity might not make enough of M-CSF,” Mehrad suggested. “If that’s the case, you could augment that and improve their ability to fight infection.”

That’s one of the two possibilities that Mehrad and his team are considering: adding extra M-CSF in cases of bacterial pneumonia to help monocytes live longer and fight stronger against the pathogenic invasion. However, there’s also a chance that what they perceive as an M-CSF “deficiency” could actually be the body’s natural response to bacterial pneumonia, and manually adding more of the cytokine wouldn’t have an effect on health outcomes. 

Bacterial pneumonia is just one of more than 30 causes of pneumonia, with other causes being viruses, mycoplasmas, fungi, and various chemicals. Common symptoms of pneumonia include cough, fever, chills, headache, fatigue, and confusion. Symptoms specific to bacterial pneumonia consist of a temperature as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit, excessive sweating, increased breathing and increased pulse rate. Older adults, children, and people with chronic disease like COPD and asthma are especially vulnerable to developing pneumonia.
 


Sources: University of Virginia Health System, UniProt, American Lung Association, Nature Reviews Immunology
About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
JUN 12, 2018
Cancer
JUN 12, 2018
CD44 Insights & Cancer Influence
CD44 is a known cell surface protein involved in numerous interactions; it is overexpressed in cancerous tissue and its isoforms are being investigated as targets for cancer immunotherapy...
JUL 03, 2018
Immunology
JUL 03, 2018
Here's a Virus that Boosts the Immune System
There’s a new therapeutic approach to boosting the weakened immune system that develops naturally with age, but it’s anything but conventional....
JUL 04, 2018
Neuroscience
JUL 04, 2018
Can Herpes Raise Your Risk for Alzheimer's?
Alzheimer's disease has no cure and no well-understood cause. Experts know that tangles of tau protein that develop in the brain impact memory and func...
JUL 15, 2018
Immunology
JUL 15, 2018
Enzyme Pathway Mediates Immune Response to Chagas Disease
The enzyme, PI3Kγ, regulates the immune response to T. cruzi, the cause of Chagas Disease. Manipulation of this enzyme may lead to better treatment of T. cruzi....
JUL 25, 2018
Immunology
JUL 25, 2018
T Cell Response to Ebola Virus Proteins
Killer T cells of Ebola survivors respond better to nucleoproteins, not glycoproteins, potentially influencing Ebola vaccine development....
AUG 15, 2018
Immunology
AUG 15, 2018
Female vs. Male: The Immune Response
There is a genetic sexual conflict in the immune system, with females showing high variation in central genes compared to males....
Loading Comments...