Infections

Appendix deserves more credit

Wednesday, 2 Dec 2015


The appendix may be crucial for maintaining digestive health, Melbourne researchers say.

Professor Gabrielle Belz of Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, and Professor Eric Vivier at the Centre d’Immunologie de Marseille-Luminy, France, found that innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) are crucial for protecting against bacterial infection in people with compromised immune systems.

By preventing significant damage and inflammation of the appendix during a bacterial attack, ILCs may help the appendix to potentially reseed ‘good’ bacteria within the microbiome in the body.

Professor Belz said the study’s findings show that the appendix deserves more credit than it has historically been given.

“Popular belief tells us the appendix is a liability,” she said. “Its removal is one of the most common surgical procedures in Australia, with more than 70,000 operations each year.

“However, we may wish to rethink whether the appendix is so irrelevant for our health.”

The paper was published in Nature Immunology. 

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