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Med Hypotheses. 2000 Apr;54(4):597-602.

Why infection-induced anorexia? The case for enhanced apoptosis of infected cells.

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  • 1Pathology Department, R. W. Johnson Pharmaceutical Research Institute, Raritan, NJ 08869, USA.


A medically important paradox is why the body's own cytokines lead to reduced appetite and apparently inefficient metabolism as part of the acute-phase response. This self-induced nutrient restriction occurs just when the body must maintain a fever and other defensive functions. This paradox is often ignored or considered a metabolic derangement. Others, recognizing it to be a programmed response which must have net beneficial effects, consider the nutrient restriction to be an attempt to deny resources to infectious organisms. However, this explanation fails to address how the pathogen can be harmed more than the host. The hypothesis presented here offers an explanation. Apoptosis, or cell suicide, is becoming recognized as a useful defense against intracellular parasites, and nutrient restriction promotes apoptosis. Thus, nutrient restriction may encourage apoptosis of infected cells. Nutrient restriction can thereby offer protection by simultaneously limiting nutrients to both the host cells and the infectious organisms.

Copyright 2000 Harcourt Publishers Ltd.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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