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People with certain infectious diseases — including tuberculosis, schistosomiasis and leishmaniasis — sometimes manage to keep the disease at bay. A heavy first infection provokes an immune response that protects against re-infection, although the original pathogen may still be present.

Yasmine Belkaid and colleagues, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Maryland, United States, have studied this 'concomitant immunity' in mice infected with a type of leishmaniasis. In this week's Nature, they report that a certain type of immune cell is the key player in this kind of immune response.

These cells, known as CD4+CD25+ suppressor T cells, have been the focus of intense study because of their role in autoimmunity (when the immune system attacks the body). The findings raise the question of whether vaccine designers should avoid or target these cells.

Link to research paper in Nature

Reference: Nature 420, 502 (2002)

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