Immune Response to the Flu

Influenza (flu) is the leading cause of respiratory infection, causing three to five million cases of severe illness and more than 500,000 deaths worldwide. While flu vaccines are effective at reducing the mortality and morbidity of flu infections, a number of the morbidities and deaths are caused by immunopathology due to the immune response to the virus. There is not, however, a good understanding of how this immunopathology is controlled.

Avery August, Microbiology and Immunology, is working to understand how T cells control the production of immunosuppressive substances. Cytotoxic T cells responding to influenza virus are able to produce the immunosuppressive cytokine IL10 and suppress immunopathology. The production of IL10 by viral specific CD8+ T cells is critical in limiting the immunopathology during flu infection. The timing of IL10 production, however, is critical—too early and it suppresses the immune response, too late and immunopathology and morbidity results.

August is examining the signaling pathway that controls the production of IL10. His lab is utilizing novel and unique transgenic mice models and approaches to provide a better understanding of how immunopathology can be suppressed during influenza and other viral infection.

NIH Award Number: 1R01AI138570-01A1

Cornell Researchers

Funding Received

$1.9 Million spanning 5 years