Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells are a recently-discovered type of white blood cell which are believed to play an important role in protecting humans, and many other mammals, from infections. They are able to detect minute quantities of vitamin metabolites produced in cells infected with bacteria and yeasts, but so far they have not been shown to protect against a major human disease. In work undertaken at the University of Melbourne, and published in the journal Nature Communications, the team and I have shown that in humans and animals MAIT cells can respond to two strains of Legionella: the bacterium which causes the very serious lung infection, Legionnaire’s disease. Importantly we showed in mice that having MAIT cells improves the chances of survival. For the first time we also showed that this protection against disease could be improved by activating these cells with vitamin metabolites. This could be an exciting new approach to protecting people against serious lung infections.
MAIT cells protect against pulmonary Legionella longbeachae infection
23 August 2018
New paper published in Nature Communications from researchers in Respiratory Medicine Unit, NDM Experimental Medicine'