For years, medical professionals have been convinced that acute viral infections, such as Zika or COVID-19, are the cause of neurological damage. But scientists have discovered that they are actually caused by the body’s immune response.
This is stated in the results of a study by scientists from McMaster University, published in the journal Nature, writes MedicalXpress.
“Our data suggest that it is not the virus itself that causes the damage, but a unique population of T cells that are part of the immune system and are responsible for the damage“, explained Doctor of Philosophy Elizabeth Balint.
A team of scientists studied the Zika virus. During laboratory studies, they found T-cells that were specific for this virus and destroyed them.
But at the same time, there were many non-specific T cells in the blood, which killed healthy cells.
The aggressive reaction arose as a result of the body’s production of a large number of inflammatory proteins – cytokines. In moderate amounts, they help fight infection or injury.
“If the body’s immune cells overreact and produce too many inflammatory cytokines, this condition leads to non-specific activation of the immune cells”— explained Ali Ashkar, professor of the Department of Medicine.
He added that such changes may cause collateral damage to develop. For example, if it happens in the brain, it is likely to have serious consequences for health in general.
Read also: Scientists explained why autoimmune diseases more often affect women