Scientists ID 'sickness Syndrome' Cause

MANHASSET, N.Y., June 21 (UPI) — U.S. and Swedish medical investigators say they have identified the mechanism that causes what is termed “sickness syndrome.”

Researchers at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y., said sickness syndrome refers to the clinical response to injury or infection that includes fever, weight loss, behavioral withdrawal and inflammation.

Although it’s been known for years that toxins associated with infectious agents can produce the syndrome, the scientists said until now it has been a mystery as to why patients develop nearly identical clinical signs after injury, despite the absence of infection.

The researchers, including scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, said they identified the protein signals at the heart of the response in a finding that might lead to the prevention of such syndromes.

Dr. Kevin Tracey, Feinstein president and the leader of the research, said the pathophysiological response that results in sickness syndrome is mediated by cytokines — molecules that ignite an inflammatory immune response.

Most of the time it is a measured response to the conditions at hand, he said, but sometimes the system goes awry and sends out too many inflammatory “foot soldiers.”

The results can be disastrous, the researchers said. They said their finding should lead to effective treatments to prevent sepsis and similar conditions.

The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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