Nervous system linked to infections

27 November 2014

A new study has suggested that the nervous system plays a much more significant role in infections than previously thought, which could have an impact on the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

This finding could even lead to better therapies for many conditions and illnesses from stomach flu to rheumatoid arthritis.

A team at St Michael's Hospital, Toronto, along with researchers from the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, New York, analysed pre-clinical trials. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, their findings note that neurons of the peripheral nervous system send information about local infections or inflammation to the central nervous system. This then triggers a full body response. 

Dr Benjamin Steinberg, a post-doctoral fellow and an anesthesiology resident at St Michael's, hypothesised that the neurons may be sending specific information about whether the infection is caused by a virus or bacteria.

Understanding these messages could lead to a more timely diagnosis, which could be especially important in pandemics or outbreaks like Ebola.

It's already possible to intercept and change some messages to the central nervous system with bioelectric therapy, which can relieve pain by interrupting the relevant signals. 

Posted by Edward Bartel


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