T cell imbalance increases risk for gastrointestinal infection recurrence

May 21, 2012, University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center

University of Cincinnati (UC) researchers have found that an imbalance in the regulation of certain T cells—the cells in the body that fight off infection or attack the system in certain autoimmune diseases—may put certain people at a higher risk of having recurrent cases of Clostridium difficile, or C. Diff, infection.

These findings are being presented via poster during Digestive Disease Week, Monday, May 21, 2012, in San Diego.

C. difficile is a bacterium that can be naturally found inside the digestive tract, but if an overgrowth occurs, it can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon. Illness from C. difficile was once more common in older adults who were hospitalized or in long-term care facilities and typically occurred after use of antibiotic medications; however, it's becoming more frequent in the general population and is more difficult and expensive to treat.

"Fifteen to 20 percent of patients with C. diff infection have recurrence after the completion of initial antibiotic treatment—which is the current standard of care—and up to 65 percent of this group of patients have a recurrent infection," says Bruce Yacyshyn, MD, professor in the digestive diseases division and lead investigator on the research. "The ability of the patient to clear the infection has been linked to antibody molecules, known as IgG, to toxins from the bacterium, but little research has done to study T cell response in initial and recurrent patients."

T , or T lymphocytes, belong to a group of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and play a central role in cell-mediated immunity.

In the study, researchers identified patients as initial (never having prior C. diff infection), or recurrent (having at least one documented infection within two weeks to one year after antibiotic treatment) and drew blood samples to be analyzed for T cell counts. Healthy control subjects and case controls, or patients in the hospital with similar risks to C. diff patients, were also examined.

"All patients with C. diff infection were found to have a lower T cell count in their blood samples and have significantly more 'regulatory' cells, which play a part in bacterial intestinal balance but can also activate and direct other T cells to fight," he says. "Although high in both groups, there were no significant differences in the levels of that cause harmful autoimmune, or inflammatory, responses (TH17+) in patients with initial infection and recurrent infection."

Yacyshyn says that researchers do think that the trend—a greater percentage of both the "regulatory" cells and the TH17 cells in recurrent patients—could be an important finding for targeting recurrence rates.

"In identifying these cells as being more prevalent in patients who have recurrent infection, we can eventually create targeted molecular therapies to regulate their activation and stop recurrence," he continues. "This pharmacoeconomic analysis could save hospitals and patients millions of dollars in treatment costs and could greatly improve patient care by targeting the specific mechanism that are not allowing the to be cured."

Explore further: Clinical trials focus on new treatments for Crohn's Disease, dangerous bacterium

Related Stories

Clinical trials focus on new treatments for Crohn's Disease, dangerous bacterium

March 20, 2012
Several clinical trials at the University of Cincinnati (UC) are focused on potential treatments for two serious gastroenterological illnesses—Crohn’s disease and Clostridium difficile, or C. difficile.

A new treatment option for Clostridium difficile: Fecal transplantation

March 14, 2012
Fecal transplantation through colonoscopy is an effective treatment for recurrent Clostridium difficile infection (CDI), according to a new study in Gastroenterology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological ...

Fecal transplant feasible for recurrent C. difficile infection

March 3, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Recurrent Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infection (CDI) can successfully be treated in the vast majority of patients through a fecal transplantation procedure via colonoscopy, according to research published ...

Recommended for you

Flu infection study increases understanding of natural immunity

January 23, 2018
People with higher levels of antibodies against the stem portion of the influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA) protein have less viral shedding when they get the flu, but do not have fewer or less severe signs of illness, according ...

New long-acting approach for malaria therapy developed

January 22, 2018
A new study, published in Nature Communications, conducted by the University of Liverpool and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine highlights a new 'long acting' medicine for the prevention of malaria.

Virus shown to be likely cause of mystery polio-like illness

January 22, 2018
A major review by UNSW researchers has identified strong evidence that a virus called Enterovirus D68 is the cause of a mystery polio-like illness that has paralysed children in the US, Canada and Europe.

Creation of synthetic horsepox virus could lead to more effective smallpox vaccine

January 19, 2018
UAlberta researchers created a new synthetic virus that could lead to the development of a more effective vaccine against smallpox. The discovery demonstrates how techniques based on the use of synthetic DNA can be used to ...

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.