Influenza doesn't kill, though it can damage the lungs. Instead, it's the secondary infections that come in its wake, things like bacterial pneumonia and pneumococcal infections, that take lives.
Now researchers at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven have discovered that the process that causes the lung damage actually helps protect against death from secondary infections.
The research is in the Feb. 18 edition of the journal Cell Host and Microbe.
Using mice, a group led by Ruslan Medzhitov from Yale's Department of Immunology showed that being infected with the influenza virus profoundly suppressed the body's systemic antibacterial immune response.
Being infected with influenza caused a general stress response in the mice, which led their bodies to increase output of glucocorticoids, a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands during psychological and physiological stress.