Can Our Immune Systems Tell Us Who’s Sick?

Discovery News:

The placebo effect relies on the mind’s ability to influence the body, but does the same work in reverse? For instance, after being sick, can the body’s immune system subconsciously tell us who’s sick so we can avoid getting sick again?

In one early analysis on the topic, researchers think it’s certainly possible. The research, featured in the journal Psychological Science, suggests people who recently felt ill are primed to notice and avoid others who appear sick around them. In this sense, their biological immune systems and behavioral immune systems work together in some way to help avoid future illness.

Though the exact way biology influences behavior in this context is unclear, scientists guess a gap of vulnerability in the body’s biological immune system plays a role. When the immune system launches an attack on a microbe invader — let’s say the common cold virus, it releases of a type of protein called cytokine interleukin-10 that causes inflammation and helps the body overcome the bug. Yet to avoid keeping the body in a heightened immune stage unnecessarily, the system sends another type of cytokine with anti-inflammatory properties. With its guard down while recovering from the previous sickness, the body is most vulnerable to other pathogens at this time.

Read the whole story: Discovery News

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