How Bacteria In The Gut Help Fight Off Viruses : Goats and Soda : NPR

So what is this magic antiviral bullet?

It's those hairlike threads that dangle off some bacteria and help them swim. Yup, that's right, the flagella.

When Gewirtz and his team injected pieces of the flagella under the mice's skin, a part of the immune system kicked into action and stopped the rotavirus infection dead in its tracks.But these bacteria — and their flagella — are in our gut. Would they still be able to talk to the immune system? Hooper thinks so. Here's why.

Just like our hair, flagella are constantly falling off the surfaces of bacteria as they swim around in the gut. "Cool immune cells, called dendritic cells, are constantly surveying what's going on in the body," Hooper says. They can bind to the pieces of flagella in the gut and then mobilize other immune cells to come and fight the viral infection.

via How Bacteria In The Gut Help Fight Off Viruses : Goats and Soda : NPR.