Interleukin2 and infectious diseases

Although antibiotics have rendered possible the medical control of various infectious agents (mainly bacterial), numerous pathogens remain for which no effective treatment exists. Most of these pathogens are non-bacterial (e.g. viral, fungal and parasitic, including protozoal). In addition, the overuse/abuse of antibiotics has hastened the development of antibiotic-resistant 'super bacteria', which have become a serious medical problem.

The most difficult microbial pathogens to treat are often those that replicate within host cells (e.g. viruses and some parasites). For example, during the complex life cycle of the malaria protozoan in humans, the parasite can infect (and destroy) liver cells and erythrocytes. Over 2 million people die each year from malaria, with at least 200-300 million people being infected at any given time. Some such agents have even evolved to survive and replicate within macrophages subsequent to uptake via phagocytosis. This is often achieved on the basis that the phagocytosed microbe is somehow capable of preventing fusion of the phagocytosed vesicle with lysozomes. Examples of pathogens capable of survival within macrophages include:

• Mycobacteria (e.g. M. tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis, and M. leprae, which causes leprosy).

• Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that, when transmitted to humans, causes listeriosis. Listeriosis is characterized by flu-like symptoms, but can cause swelling of the brain and induce abortions.

• Legionella pneumophila, the bacterium that causes legionnaire's disease.

The immunological response raised against intracellular pathogens is largely a T-cell response. IL-2's ability to stimulate T-cells may render it useful in the treatment of a wide range of such conditions. Clinical trials assessing its efficacy in treating a range of infectious diseases, including AIDS, continue. A related potential medical application of IL-2 relates to its possible use as adjuvant material in vaccination programmes (Chapter 13).

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Supplements For Diabetics

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