Th17 Immune Cells Raise Risk of Severe C. difficile in Colitis Patients, Study Shows

Th17 Immune Cells Raise Risk of Severe C. difficile in Colitis Patients, Study Shows
Patients with colitis are particularly susceptible to infection by the toxin-producing bacteria Clostridium difficile, but the reason remained unknown. Now, researchers have discovered that changes in the immune system, namely high levels of Th17 immune cells, are the key drivers worsening the infection. Moreover, levels of a cytokine called interleukin (IL)-6 help identify those at higher risk of severe infection. "When you look at how much bacteria are growing or how much toxin is being produced, a lot of time there is no direct correlation," Mahmoud Saleh, the study’s first author, said in a press release. "Now we know that what's making that difference is this immune response.” The study, “Colitis-Induced Th17 Cells Increase the Risk for Severe Subsequent Clostridium difficile Infection,” was published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe. C. difficile infection is currently the most common hospital-acquired infection, but it is more common and severe among patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), especially those with colitis. However, the cause of increased incidence and severity of the infection among IBD patients was unknown. Scientists had long believed that the severity of C. difficile infection was simply linked with the bacteria’s ability to secrete toxins that damage the body. As so, more bacteria would mean increased toxins and more damage. Researchers at the University of Virginia School
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