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Fever helps body fight infection

Source: ANI
Last updated on: November 06, 2006 18:42 IST
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A new research by boffins at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, US has found that trying to combat fevers with drugs and cold compresses may not be such a good thing after all.

The researchers, led by Sharon Evans, found that not only do fevers disrupt the ability of viruses that thrive at body temperature to multiply, but they also aid the body's immune system to identify an infection, and raise an army of white blood cells (lymphocytes) against it.

Sharon Evans said that while the researchers were not as yet advising against the use of cold compresses or drugs to break a fever, the results of the study had raised serious questions of how beneficial are fevers to the body.

"We're not advising against cooling fevers, but our results raise questions about the advantages of lowering temperature. We have found a physiological mechanism for improved immune surveillance," New Scientist quoted her.

As a part of the research, the scholars artificially created a fever-like state in a group of mice by confining them at 39.50C - 2.60C higher than normal. They found that when the body has fever, the number of lymphocytes visiting lymph nodes, increases.

The lymphocytes are then checked for "killer efficiency" using fragments of potentially infectious material, to find which ones are most effective against the infection.

Once identified, they selectively multiply, before swarming into the bloodstream to seek out and destroy the invader. The researchers found that the faster an infectious agent is identified, and the lymphocytes "army" raised to destroy it, the sooner an infection can be brought under control.

The team now states that fever actually benefits the whole process by accelerating the surveillance process. "It's an attempt to accelerate identification and eradication of infection," said Evans.

Andrew Luster at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Charlestown, US, who was not involved in the research, said that the results showed the effects of fever at a molecular level.

"This study shows the effects fever has at a molecular level, letting more lymphocytes stick to and enter the lymph nodes," he said.

The researchers, who are carrying out further studies, are hopeful that fever-based therapies might be refined to improve existing treatments for infections, auto-immune diseases and cancer. The study is published in the journal Nature Immunology.

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Source: ANI