AUG 20, 2017 07:53 PM PDT

Preventing Lethal Shock During Hemorrhagic Fevers

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

The body can go into “shock” for several different reasons, but it’s never a good sign. Whatever the source of shock, the condition is lethal if left untreated (and sometimes leads to death even with treatment). From the University of Basel, researchers are looking at a common cause of shock, hemorrhagic fevers from viral infections, to find new, more effective treatments.

A transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of a number of Lassa virus virions adjacent to some cell debris. Source: CDC's Public Health Image Library

Hemorrhagic fever describes what happens to the body when multiple body organs are damaged as the body’s vascular system is breaking down. When hemorrhagic fevers lead to shock, the body’s blood pressure is so low that there is not enough oxygen in the body to prevent organ failure. Someone in shock might feel cold, anxious, and confused, or look pale with dilated pupils. Treatment options often depend on what the source of shock is (it can be from an allergic reaction, infections in the blood, a heart deficiency, or even an emotional disturbance). Oxygen, IV fluids, blood transfusion, or blood vessel-constricting drugs to direct blood flow to the heart and brain are a few options.

Lassa virus is transmitted to humans by rodents, causing a hemorrhagic fever reminiscent of the Ebola virus. This type of infection is particularly common in West Africa, and at the very last stage of the disease, people go into shock, usually leading to death. In a new study published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe, researchers use Lassa virus as a way to study what happens in the body to trigger hemorrhagic fever, with the hope of using that information to someday develop new therapies.

Interestingly, researchers identified T cells at the root of circulatory failure. T cells are a key part of the adaptive immune system, the branch that designs a specific attack against pathogenic invaders, so implicating T cells in contributing to shock was surprising.

They found that T cells “convince” so-called “scavenger” cells to mass-produce nitric oxide (NO) by releasing a substance called interferon gamma. However, NO is an antibacterial chemical; it has no power over viral infections. Instead, NO triggers blood vessel dilation, the first step toward what will eventually be circulatory failure. However, researchers already see the benefits of blocking the production of interferon gamma to prevent circulatory failure.

With a key trigger of shock identified, researchers are already moving forward on applying this knowledge in the clinic to prevent shock-related death.

Sources: LiveScience, CDC, University of Basel

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
OCT 16, 2019
Immunology
OCT 16, 2019
Dengue Meet Immune System
A physical interaction between two types of immune cells that plays an essential role in the early fight against dengue virus infection has been observed for the first time....
OCT 16, 2019
Immunology
OCT 16, 2019
When the Cell Dials 9-1-1
Researchers can now explain how a cell that is being attacked by bacteria or viruses specifically manages to 'sound the alarm'...
OCT 16, 2019
Health & Medicine
OCT 16, 2019
Dietary Cholesterol and Its Impact on Autoimmune and Infectious Disease Processes
There has been a great deal of media coverage and controversy over the role of diet on disease processes such as autoimmunity and infection. Can dietary ch...
OCT 16, 2019
Microbiology
OCT 16, 2019
In Space, Dormant Viruses Can Reactivate
Some astronauts have lived onboard the International Space Station for hundreds of days. Researchers are learning more about the things that can happen in that time....
OCT 16, 2019
Health & Medicine
OCT 16, 2019
Bartonella henselae Infection Implicated in Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome
Pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome (PANS) is a term used to describe every cause of acute-onset of obsessive-compulsive disorder including str...
OCT 16, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
OCT 16, 2019
Novel Treatments for Auto-immune Disorders
A recent research study examined a library of almost 300,000 small molecules to search for a molecule that may be a potential target for the human GMP-AMP ...
Loading Comments...