Blog eats Blog by Rachel


Thu Mar 23 2006 10:28 MST #

So the other day I was talking about influenza with some of my relatives, and I realized, I don't know exactly HOW bird flu kills people. I just figured some sort of immune system overreaction. But what happens exactly? So i looked it up in wikipedia today, and it looks like this is the answer: Cytokine storm

From Wikipedia:

A cytokine storm is a potentially fatal immune reaction consisting of a positive feedback loop between cytokines and immune cells. When the immune system is fighting pathogens, cytokines signal immune cells such as T-cells and macrophages to travel to the site of infection. In addition, cytokines activate those cells, stimulating them to produce more cytokines. Normally this feedback loop is kept in check by the body. However, in some instances, the reaction becomes uncontrolled, and too many immune cells are activated in a single place. The precise reason for this is not entirely understood. Cytokine storms have potential to do significant damage to body tissues and organs. If a cytokine storm occurs in the lungs, for example, fluids and immune cells such as macrophages may accumulate and eventually block off the air passageways.

It's possible that a healthy immune system is more of a liability with bird flu. The idea being a less responsive immune system wouldn't get you into this feedback loop, at least not as badly. Or something.

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