Health Watch - Infections: The Body's Border Patrol

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

This week on Health Watch, we’re talking about how the body fights infections and what medicine can do to help. We generally think of microbes as harmful invaders, but did you realize that there are ten times as many microbes in the human gut as there are cells in the human body? Some of these microbes are beneficial and help digest food. Others are potentially harmful and can cause illness if they escape the gut and get into body tissues.

Dr. Lora Hooper, an immunologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says cells found in the lining of the gut serve as the body’s border patrol agents, keeping bacteria where they belong. When these cells sense that bacteria are getting too close, they excrete an antimicrobial protein that keeps them from getting past the lining of the gut. Researchers are studying how the cells sense bacteria and how they may signal other cells to help protect the body.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in infectious diseases.


March 2009

Health Watch is heard Monday through Friday nationwide on ABC Satellite Radio. Call your local radio station and ask if they carry the program.