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The team used a combination of laboratory mice models and lab-based assays in both human and mice cells, to provide a glimpse of how DEP exposure may lead to pneumococcal disease.
The results of the study show that after being exposed to DEPs, the macrophages in the airway, which are important immune cells to control bacterial infections and getting rid of debris from the body, become overwhelmed and congested with DEPs, decreasing their ability to kill the bacteria.
As a result, the macrophages can’t get rid of pathogenic bacteria that entered the airway, leading to invasion and inflammation. In some cases, the bacteria can access the blood, causing severe disease and infection. When the bacteria travel by blood into the brain, it can cause the inflammation of the meninges, called meningitis.
“We know that exposure to air pollution is harmful, responsible for millions of deaths every year, of which a significant proportion is due to pneumonia. What we did not know, however, was how pollution, such as diesel exhaust particles, actually causes airway disease." Professor Aras Kadioglu from the University of Liverpool's Institute of Infection & Global Health said.
"In this study, we have now discovered the cellular mechanisms behind this. Our study highlights an urgent need to tackle airway pollution if we are to reduce life-threatening respiratory diseases such as pneumonia,” he added.
The study provides further insight to support previous observations of increased pneumonia cases in certain countries like China where air pollution levels are highest. The researchers urge that reducing global pollution levels may help in reducing pneumococcal diseases.
“Our study shows that exposure to DEPs, which is a major airborne particulate pollutant both here in the UK and abroad, maybe one of the key factors involved in the switch from harmless pneumococcal colonization of the nasal tissues to severe diseases, such as pneumonia,” Dr. Rebecca Shears, study co-author, said.
“The reduced ability of DEP exposed airway macrophages to control the infection appears to be key in the increased number of cases of pneumococcal disease. This study adds further impetus to reduce global pollution levels,” she added. Source:
Exposure to diesel exhaust particles linked to pneumococcal disease susceptibility - https://news.liverpool.ac.uk/2020/01/23/exposure-to-diesel-exhaust-particles-linked-to-pneumococcal-disease-susceptibility/ Journal reference:
Exposure to diesel exhaust particles increases susceptibility to invasive pneumococcal disease Shears, Rebecca K. et al. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(19)31635-5/abstract
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