How does your body ‘know’ it’s been infected?

Published on: Author: the CVR science blog editors

Join Andrew Shaw and Connor Bamford – CVR postdocs – for a chat with Professor Jan Rehwinkel from the University of Oxford and MRC Human immunology unit in this recent episode of Contagious Thinking. Following Jan’s recent seminar at the CVR, he talks with the podcast about his lab’s work on understanding how our cells ‘know’ they have been infected and how they kickstart an immune response that’s going to stop us getting sick. We focus on the general principles of this process and continue on to discuss their recent paper in Science on sensing of incoming viruses by the cellular protein STING.

Viruses and other microbes are all around us and some are just waiting to infect and cause disease. Why then don’t we get sick more often? Why – when we do get sick – do we not succumb to disease more often? Why then if we survive that infection are we usually protected from it in the future? The thing that’s helping us out and stopping us from getting sick is our immune system, the amalgamation of defences that millions of years of evolution has gifted us.

Most people will recognise antibodies and T cells, the immune responses with memory that are the basis of all of our vaccines. But people will be less familiar with the concepts of innate immunity? Interferon? or intrinsic immunity, which are all important in our defence against viral infection.