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Inhalation of sugar can be a sweet way to fight lung infections, researchers say



Inhaling sugar can be a sweet way to fight pulmonary infections, new research suggests.

Scientists made this discovery by examining the effects of glucose on cells of the respiratory immune system

. Proteins can weaken inflammation, which plays a key role in allergies, asthma, and parasite responses.


But the study was intriguing the back side – the idea that inhaling sugar can stimulate the immune system of the lungs to fight the infection.

It is possible that glucose supply may increase inflammation to help protect against some pulmonary infections, said lead scientist professor Andrew McDonald of the University of Manchester. "It is advisable to assume that short-term inhalation therapy can once work as such.























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How sugar might be inhaled is not made clear in the study, published in the journal Nature Immunology.

Theoretically sugar could be “snorted” as a powder, but not “vaped”. When a sugar solution is heated the water evaporates while the sugar crystallises.

The study in mice looked at specialised white blood cells called macrophages. These act as immune system “vacuum cleaners”, removing harmful organisms and debris.

The Manchester team found that macrophages in the lungs need the right level of glucose “fuel” in order to function properly.

Too much sugar stimulation led to inflammation of the type often associated with chronic conditions such as asthma.

Lung inflammation is also linked to the potentially deadly effects of parasitic worm infections, a huge problem in Africa and Asia.

The research suggests that blocking sugar receptors on lung macrophages could help suppress such diseases.

On the other hand, stimulating the cells with more sugar might help the immune system fight off bronchial infections responsible for coughing fits and pneumonia.


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Prof MacDonald added: “Respiratory illnesses cause terrible suffering in both the developing and developed world. Hundreds of people are admitted to hospital every day in the UK with asthma attacks, while potentially deadly parasitic infections in the lungs are endemic across much of Africa and Asia. The idea that modifying glucose levels in the lungs could one day be a critical factor in treatment of these conditions is tremendously exciting.

“Clearly we now need to study the impact of glucose on human lung macrophages.”

Press Association


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