Having a fever might be uncomfortable, but it actually helps us fight off infections.
Scientists have found more evidence that elevated body temperature helps certain types of immune cells to work better.
“An increase in body temperature has been known since ancient times to be associated with infection and inflammation,” said Elizabeth A Repasky, a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Immunology at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York.
“Since a febrile response is highly conserved in nature (even so-called cold blooded animals move to warmer places when they become ill) it would seem important that we immunologists devote more attention to this interesting response,” she explained.
Repasky and her team found that the generation and differentiation of a particular kind of lymphocyte, known as a “CD8+ cytotoxic T-cell” (capable of destroying virus-infected cells and tumour cells) is enhanced by mild fever-range hyperthermia.
Specifically, their research suggested that elevated body temperature changes the T-cells' membranes that may help mediate the effects of micro-environmental temperature on cell function.
To test this, researchers injected two groups of mice with an antigen, and examined the activation of T-cells following the interaction with antigen presenting cells.
Body temperature in half of the mice was raised by 2 degrees centigrade, while the other half maintained a normal core body temperature.
In the warmed mice, they found a greater number of the type of CD8 T-cells capable of destroying infected cells.
The finding was reported in the November 2011 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.