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Good bugs gone bad: Gut immune cells keep beneficial microbes in their place

The healthy human intestine is colonized with over 100 trillion beneficial, or commensal, bacteria of many different species. In healthy people, these bacteria are limited to the intestinal tissues and have a number of helpful properties, including aiding in the digestion of food and promoting a healthy immune system.

However, when it comes to commensal bacteria, location is key. While commensal bacteria in the intestine provide positive effects, several chronic human diseases, including HIV/AIDS, inflammatory bowel disease, viral hepatitis, and obesity are associated with the spread of these intestinal commensal bacteria to the blood stream and other peripheral tissues, which can cause chronic inflammation. 'Good bugs' that promote normal health can 'turn bad' if found in the wrong location.

In earlier work, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that barrier surfaces -- the skin, gut, lung ā€“ are guarded by immune cells and limit the inner body's exposure to viruses, bacteria, and parasites, as well as allergens and pollutants. But, how immune cells play a role in limiting the location of commensal bacteria to intestinal and other barrier sites remains unclear.
 
 

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