Luigi Santacroce, Skender Topi, Ioannis Alexandros Charitos, Roberto Lovero, Paolo Luperto, Raffaele Palmirotta, Emilio Jirillo

Current Views about the Inflammatory Damage Triggered by Bacterial Superantigens and Experimental Attempts to Neutralize Superantigen-Mediated Toxic Effects with Natural and Biological Products

  • General Medicine

Superantigens, i.e., staphylococcal enterotoxins and toxic shock syndrome toxin-1, interact with T cells in a different manner in comparison to conventional antigens. In fact, they activate a larger contingent of T lymphocytes, binding outside the peptide-binding groove of the major histocompatibility complex class II. Involvement of many T cells by superantigens leads to a massive release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin (IL)-1, IL-2, IL-6, tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interferon-gamma. Such a storm of mediators has been shown to account for tissue damage, multiorgan failure and shock. Besides conventional drugs and biotherapeutics, experiments with natural and biological products have been undertaken to attenuate the toxic effects exerted by superantigens. In this review, emphasis will be placed on polyphenols, probiotics, beta-glucans and antimicrobial peptides. In fact, these substances share a common functional denominator, since they skew the immune response toward an anti-inflammatory profile, thus mitigating the cytokine wave evoked by superantigens. However, clinical applications of these products are still scarce, and more trials are needed to validate their usefulness in humans.

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