Host Responses

An appetite for tolerance

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Science  23 Sep 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6306, pp. 1378-1379
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6306.1378-b

The proverb “feed a cold, starve a fever” may contain a kernel of truth after all. Animals from insects to humans display certain types of behaviors when they are sick, including reduced appetite and social withdrawal. To better understand the importance of these behaviors, Wang et al. studied the effects of sickness-induced anorexia in bacterially or virally infected mice. They found that whereas nutritionally supplementing mice improved their overall survival of influenza infection or viral sepsis, it killed mice infected with Listeria monocytogenes or subjected to bacterial sepsis. These effects were independent of pathogen load and resulted rather from nutrition-based differences in the ability of the mice to tolerate the pathogen, owing to the different metabolic pressures facing the host.

Cell 166, 1512 (2016).

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