Research from the lab of Assistant Professor Jessica Brinkworth on early immune responses of primates to bacterial and viral infections has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The article, titled "Primate innate immune responses to bacterial and viral pathogens reveals an evolutionary trade-off between strength and specificity" finds that apes exhibit increased sensitivity to bacterial and viral immune stimulation, activating a broader array of defense molecules that may be beneficial for early pathogen killing at the potential cost of increased energy expenditure and tissue damage. By contrast, African and Asian monkeys launch blunted and more specific responses. The findings support a divergence in primate innate immune function 29-30 million years ago and provide a functional explanation for why humans are more likely to suffer sepsis in response to small amounts of certain types of bacteria, compared to the African and Asian monkeys that are commonly used as sepsis models.
The work was completed in collaboration with the Barreiro lab at the University of Chicago and reflects years of coordination, experiments and analysis.