Neurological damage from immune response but not from acute viral infections



“We were interested in trying to understand why so many viral infections are associated with neurological diseases,” says the senior author. “Our evidence suggests that it's not the virus itself that causes the damage, but a unique population of T cells, which are part of the immune system, that are actually responsible for the damage."

To come to this conclusion, the team focused on Zika virus. During laboratory testing, researchers, as expected, found T cells that were specific for Zika and designed to eliminate infected cells. They found something else, too.

“What was interesting in our study is that although we did find some T cells specific for Zika, we identified cells that weren’t functioning like a normal T cell and were killing lots of cells that weren’t infected with Zika."

These cells are called NKG2D+CD8+ T cells and researchers say their aggressive response is responsible for neurological damage suffered from infections beyond just Zika, like COVID-19 and even septic shock.

The aggressive response is the result of the body producing large amounts of inflammatory proteins called cytokines, which in moderation help to coordinate the body’s response in battling an infection or injury by telling immune cells where to go and what to do when they arrive.

"If our body’s immune cells overreact and over produce inflammatory cytokines, this condition will lead to non-specific activation of our immune cells which in turn leads to collateral damage. This can have severe consequences if it happens in the brain,” another author says.

The discovery offers researchers and scientists a new target for treatments of neurological diseases sparked by acute viral infections. In fact, the authors have already found a treatment that holds promise.

"There are a few different other viruses we’re interested in studying, which will aid us in creating the best treatment options," the author says.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-023-44667-0

http://sciencemission.com/site/index.php?page=news&type=view&id=publications%2Fbystander-activated-cd8&filter=22

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