Pollutants, pathogens could team up to make us sick

March 20, 2019

Many people view pollutants and pathogens as separate causes of illness. However, recent research indicates that the two can interact, changing how people and animals respond to infectious diseases. According to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, environmental pollutants appear to weaken the immune system, reduce vaccine efficacy and increase pathogen virulence.

More than 20 years ago, researchers showed that exposing mice to low levels of a dioxin called 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin made them more susceptible to influenza virus. Since then, several studies have suggested that other chemicals, such as perfluorooctanoic acid, mercury and arsenic, can also alter animals' immune responses and decrease their resistance to infectious diseases. And epidemiological studies in humans have linked chemical exposure in the womb to a child's increased risk of infectious disease. However, scientists are only now beginning to unravel how this happens, Senior Editor Britt E. Erickson writes.

Compounds called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are widely used in household products, such as food packaging, nonstick products and cleaners. Researchers have linked elevated concentrations of some PFAS in mothers' blood to reduced responses to vaccinations and more illnesses in their children. Similarly, arsenic exposure in the womb has been associated with decreased levels of antibodies against diphtheria in vaccinated Bangladeshi children. Evidence also suggests that some chemicals, such as zinc or lead, may contribute to the rise of multidrug-resistant strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (known as MRSA). Such interactions are complex and will require more interdisciplinary research in environmental health and infectious disease, Erickson writes.
-end-
The article, "Linking pollution and infectious disease," is freely available here.

The American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, is a not-for-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Follow us on Twitter | Facebook

American Chemical Society

Related Immune System Articles from Brightsurf:

How the immune system remembers viruses
For a person to acquire immunity to a disease, T cells must develop into memory cells after contact with the pathogen.

How does the immune system develop in the first days of life?
Researchers highlight the anti-inflammatory response taking place after birth and designed to shield the newborn from infection.

Memory training for the immune system
The immune system will memorize the pathogen after an infection and can therefore react promptly after reinfection with the same pathogen.

Immune system may have another job -- combatting depression
An inflammatory autoimmune response within the central nervous system similar to one linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) has also been found in the spinal fluid of healthy people, according to a new Yale-led study comparing immune system cells in the spinal fluid of MS patients and healthy subjects.

COVID-19: Immune system derails
Contrary to what has been generally assumed so far, a severe course of COVID-19 does not solely result in a strong immune reaction - rather, the immune response is caught in a continuous loop of activation and inhibition.

Immune cell steroids help tumours suppress the immune system, offering new drug targets
Tumours found to evade the immune system by telling immune cells to produce immunosuppressive steroids.

Immune system -- Knocked off balance
Instead of protecting us, the immune system can sometimes go awry, as in the case of autoimmune diseases and allergies.

Too much salt weakens the immune system
A high-salt diet is not only bad for one's blood pressure, but also for the immune system.

Parkinson's and the immune system
Mutations in the Parkin gene are a common cause of hereditary forms of Parkinson's disease.

How an immune system regulator shifts the balance of immune cells
Researchers have provided new insight on the role of cyclic AMP (cAMP) in regulating the immune response.

Read More: Immune System News and Immune System Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.