A Project that Seeks to Reduce Flu-Related Mortality is Monthly Publication Highlight

Oct 28, 2013

Work that explores the mechanism of immune dysfunction associated with influenza infection is the UK College of Pharmacy’s Monthly Publication Highlight for October. The article was published in the Journal of Immunology and is entitled, “Linezolid Decreases Susceptibility to Secondary Bacterial Pneumonia Postinfluenza Infection in Mice through its Effects on IFN-Gamma.”

The research comes from the laboratory of Dr. David Feola, an associate professor in the College’s Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science. Other authors on the paper include Dr. Beth Garvey, Chair of the College of Medicine’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics; Cindy Mattingly, a research analyst in Dr. Feola’s laboratory; Dr. Susan Birket, a recent PhD graduate from the UK College of Pharmacy; and Samantha Hoskins, a recent graduate from the Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics.

One of the major contributors to mortality associated with influenza is not the flu itself, according to Dr. Feola. Vulnerable patient populations – like the elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems – often suffer from a secondary bacterial pneumonia following the flu.

In affected patients, the transient immune deficiency caused by influenza is due to induction of high concentrations of the cytokine IFN-gamma. This research finding shows that linezolid, an antibacterial agent, blunts IFN-gamma production post-flu in a mouse infection model, and thereby decreases morbidity and infectivity from subsequent bacterial challenge. The mechanism was confirmed by reversing the benefits conferred through linezolid treatment by the administration of exogenous IFN-gamma. The research team hopes that improved understanding of the immune-mediated interaction between viral and bacterial infection will lead to the pursuit of therapeutic targets that could impact mortality rates in vulnerable patient populations.

“This project is a great example of some of the collaborative research between the UK Colleges of Pharmacy and Medicine,” said Linda Dwoskin, Associate Dean for Research for the UK College of Pharmacy. “Furthermore, this is one of several interesting immunology projects taking place in Dr. Feola’s laboratory, and this discovery could be of great importance to patients who have compromised immune systems.”

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