SYDNEY, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- Australian researchers are a step closer to understanding immune complications caused by commonly prescribed medications.
Many well-known and commonly prescribed drugs that are successfully used to treat diseases can also have harmful side effects. While it has been known that some drugs can inhibit the immune system, why it occurs has remained a mystery.
Research published by Monash University and the University of Melbourne on Tuesday has taken the most significant step yet in understanding the process that inhibits the immune system.
The research team investigated Mucosal associated invariant T (MAIT) cells, a specialized type of immune cells, to discover what type of drugs were activating the MAIT cells.
They found that some drugs prevented the MAIT cells from performing their main function of detecting infections while others activated the immune system.
Andrew Keller, lead author of the study which was published in Nature Immunology, said the research should lead to a much better understanding of immune reactions by some people to certain drugs.
Keller said that the T cells were an integral part of the body's immune system.
"They protect the body by 'checking' other cells for signs of infection and activating the immune system when they detect an invader," Keller said in a statement.
"This arrangement is dependent on both the T cells knowing what they're looking for, and the other cells in the body giving them useful information."
Sidonia Eckle from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of Melbourne said the implications point to possible links between MAIT cells and drug hypersensitivities.
"A greater understanding of the interaction between MAIT cells and other host cells will hopefully allow us to better predict and avoid therapeutics that influence and cause harm," Eckle said.
"It also offers the tantalizing prospect of future therapies that manipulate MAIT cell behavior, for example, by enhancing or suppressing immune responses to achieve beneficial clinical outcome."