Infections’ varying reactions to foods
Many organisms experience a lack of appetite or avoid certain foods when they catch a virus or acquire harmful bacteria. A study led by Ruslan Medzhitov, Ph.D., the David W. Wallace Professor of Immunobiology, published Sept. 8 in Cell, suggests that nutrition has different effects on viral versus bacterial infections.
“When animals are infected, they stop eating and switch to a fasting metabolic mode,” Medzhitov says. “The question was whether fasting metabolism is protective or detrimental.”
Fasting proved helpful for recovery from fevers brought on by, for example, bacterial sepsis. However, eating food, which provides glucose, aided the mice’s ability to recuperate from a viral infection. The findings suggest that various diet preferences may correlate with different types of infections. Still, the authors note, the old adage, “Starve a fever, feed a cold,” might not apply because the effect likely depends on specific infections.
The findings of this study may inform clinicians’ decisions on nutrition for intensive care patients who suffer from acute infections.