Allergic to… Bacteria?


A study released in this month's issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology suggests that some instances of asthma may be related to what could be classified as an allergic response to bacteria.

_The allergic response, though not fully understood, is often fairly simple. When protein allergens like pollen, dander or dust mites enter airways and bind to IgE (Immunoglobulin E) receptors, mast cells release histamines which cause the swelling and inflammation. These are often what are behind the sneezing, congestion, and watery eyes.

_For this study, researchers introduced Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a common infection causing bacteria, in to mice. In response to this foreign bacteria in the lungs, white blood cells produced very high levels of histamine.Allergic Mouse

_While histamine production in the lungs is not uncommon (histamines cause the most common symptom of asthma – inflammation) what is most significant is that it was produced by white blood cells, NOT the mast cells that produce histamines in allergic responses.

_This study further complicates the blurry line between allergic and asthmatic responses, by showing that a common bacteria can cause white blood cells to exhibit allergen response-like traits. Ultimately, studies like this not only shed more light on the processes underlying these responses but can also lead a better understanding of how the body can combat allergies and asthma.

Author: Kevin Gilmore

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