Autoimmunity, H1N1 & Death

January 10th, 20101:36 am @ Angela Odom


Remember the media’s constant references to “underlying health issues” with those who died from H1N1? Well, there may be a link to autoimmunity. As I sit here with a horrible cold — not flu, cold — I have returned to why cold/flu always hits the lungs and why some, particularly with the H1N1 virus, either died or were in comas, lost organ functioning, etc.

Newswise is reporting there may be an underlying problem with autoimmunity. An international team of Canadian and Spanish scientists have found the first potential immunological clue of why some people develop severe pneumonia when infected by the pandemic H1N1 virus.

Apparently, the problem is with Interleukin 17 which is produced by the body and is important in the normal regulation of white blood cells which fight infection and disease. In certain circumstances, the molecule becomes “out of control”, leading to inflammation and autoimmune diseases.

Analysis of the immune mediators involved in host responses to the virus in mild and severe cases revealed Th1 and Th17 cytokine responses as early distinctive hallmarks of severe respiratory compromise following infection with nvH1N1. The exact role of Th1 and Th17 mediators in the evolution of nvH1N1 mild and severe disease merits further investigation as to the detrimental or beneficial role these cytokines play in severe illness. The influence of Th17-dominant conditions (autoimmune diseases) or Th1 deficient ones (HIV infection) on disease outcome should also be explored. Furthermore, the impact of other regulatory cytokines elevated in severe disease (IL-10, IL-13) on the evolution of host immune responses to nvH1N1 infections may represent alternative therapeutics for controlling severe illness.

One of the Canadian researchers did say that a test to determine who has high levels of the molecule is possible in the near future. “A diagnostic test could let us know early who is at risk for the severe form of this illness quickly,” he said, adding that high levels would indicate a failure of the immune system to eliminate the virus, similar to what happened during the 1918 Spanish flu when huge numbers of deaths occurred due to a deadly influenza A virus strain of subtype H1N1.

The research paper titled, “Th1 and Th17 hypercytokinemia as early host response signature in severe pandemic influenza” is published in the December issue of Critical Care. You can read the full-text PDF version of the study here.

Read More:

Newswise: First Immunological Clue to Why Some H1N1 Patients Get Very Ill Or Die