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Immune Response Triggers Side-Effects to Common Drugs

Australian researchers are a step closer to understanding immune sensitivities that cause side-effects from commonly prescribed medications.

Their study, published in Nature Immunology, investigated which drugs might activate a specialised type of T cell that detects infection. They found that some drugs prevented these MAIT cells from detecting infections while other drugs activated the immune system, which may be undesirable.

Dr Andrew Keller of Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute said that T cells are 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,” he said. “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.”

PhD student Weijun Xu of The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience used computer modelling to predict chemical structures, drugs and drug-like molecules that might impact on MAIT cell function. Such small compounds included salicylates, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like diclofenac, and drug metabolites.

Dr Sidonia Eckle of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at The University of Melbourne said the implications point to possible links between known drug hypersensitivities and MAIT cells. “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,” she said. “It also offers the tantalising prospect of future therapies that manipulate MAIT cell behaviour, for example, by enhancing or suppressing immune responses to achieve beneficial clinical outcome.”