Science is helping us understand what happens when we get sick, the study shows.
And it’s finding that a common trigger for the disease, a viral infection, can cause our immune systems to attack healthy tissue.
Dr Simon Wood, a researcher at the University of Sydney’s Department of Medical Ethics and one of the authors of the study, said the results could help guide doctors when treating patients with viral infections.
“The findings suggest that viral infection is the underlying cause of chronic inflammatory responses in the immune system and may also contribute to the development of chronic diseases,” he said.
“There’s a need to better understand how viral infection affects the immune systems and how this contributes to chronic disease.”
The study found that people who were infected with a virus called VeroCas9 were more likely to develop autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, multiple sclerosis type 1 and multiple sclerosis types 2, Crohn’s disease and Crohn disease, chronic inflammatory disorders and asthma, and that people with the infection had more genetic damage to the immune cells in their body.
“VeroCas 9 can induce multiple and complex cellular responses in immune cells, including those of the immune tissues,” Dr Wood said.
“Our results suggest that chronic inflammation is a significant cause of these diseases.”
Dr Wood said he hoped that the findings could be useful in developing new ways to treat chronic inflammatory diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.
“It’s not just a matter of getting rid of virus-infected tissues,” he added.
“We need to understand how virus-induced inflammatory responses can lead to disease.
We also need to look at how inflammation in the tissues itself can trigger the immune response.”
Dr William Tashkin, a professor of medicine at the School of Medicine and Dentistry at Sydney’s Murdoch University, said it was an important study.
“This is really an important piece of the puzzle of chronic inflammation and it’s important to understand the mechanism underlying this, he said, adding that the research was very preliminary.”
But it’s really important to consider what this means for the immune dysfunction in chronic diseases.