Mice lacking these cells had a delayed entry of immune cells into infected tissue, according to Science Express paper.

University of Washington scientists found that regulatory T cells (Tregs) help orchestrate the early immune responses to a viral infection.  Previous research has shown that Tregs halt immune responses as an infection is almost eliminated. This suppression reduces tissue damage from robust immune responses seen in autoimmune disease.

The Univ. of Washington team exposed mice lacking Tregs to a herpes simplex virus infection in mucus membranes. The simplex virus replicated rapidly in the mucus membranes and spread to the spinal cord, according to the investigators.

Upon closer examination, they found very little interferon at the infection site, even though it was found in the draining lymph nodes. The team also noticed a sharp increase in certain chemokines in the lymph nodes. The presence of chemokines appeared to encourage the entry and retention of certain infection-fighting cells in the lymph nodes draining the site of infection. The researchers also noticed a delay in  natural killer cells, dendritic cells, and T cells arriving at the site of infection.

These “results suggest that Tregs facilitate early protective responses to local viral infection by allowing a timely entry of immune cells into infected tissue,” wrote the investigators in their paper, which appeared in the April 24 edition of Science Express.

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