Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:23 PM
snagglepuss (10,327 posts)
Why Getting Healthy Can Seem Worse Than Getting Sick
A new article in The Quarterly Review of Biology helps explain why the immune system often makes us worse while trying to make us well.
The research offers a new perspective on a component of the immune system known as the acute-phase response, a series of systemic changes in blood protein levels, metabolic function, and physiology that sometimes occurs when bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens invade the body. This response puts healthy cells and tissue under serious stress, and is actually the cause of many of the symptoms we associate with being sick.
"The question is why would these harmful components evolve," asks Edmund LeGrand (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), who wrote the paper titled with Joe Alcock (University of New Mexico). The researchers contend that answer becomes clear when we view the acute-phase response in terms of what they call "immune brinksmanship."
The immune brinksmanship model "is the gamble that systemic stressors will harm the pathogens relatively more than the host," LeGrand said. The concept, he explains, is akin to what happens in international trade disputes. When one country places trade sanctions on another, both countries' economies take a hit, but the sanctioning country is betting that its opponent will be hurt more.
"One of our contributions here is to pull together the reasons why pathogens suffer more from systemic stress," LeGrand said.
4 replies, 985 views
Why Getting Healthy Can Seem Worse Than Getting Sick (Original post)
Response to snagglepuss (Original post)
Thu Mar 22, 2012, 01:03 PM
zipplewrath (10,033 posts)
The immune brinksmanship model "is the gamble that systemic stressors will harm the pathogens relatively more than the host,"
A more apt metaphor is chemotherapy, where we subject one to poisons, intending to kill the cancer before we kill the host. A fever is roughly the same concept. The body increasing its temperature, at the risk of harming the host, in order to kill an "invader". Fighting fire with fire so to speak.
Response to zipplewrath (Reply #2)
Thu Mar 22, 2012, 04:30 PM
Warpy (82,344 posts)
3. The same thing is at work with the sloughing of epithelial cells
in the upper respiratory system in the hope that infected cells are sloughed off before the virus can reproduce. That's what produces the sore throat and dripping nose.
I tend not to treat a fever unless it's over 101.5F because the low grade fever is the body's way of making things uncomfortable for virus replication and it works just fine most of the time.
Response to Warpy (Reply #3)
Thu Mar 22, 2012, 04:34 PM
zipplewrath (10,033 posts)
4. I thought I was the only glutton
Wife always asks why I don't "take something" when I have a low fever. My response is usually something along the line of "my body's fighting, why would I want to interfere?"