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Infection, Pain, and Itch

Abstract

Pain and itch are unpleasant sensations that often accompany infections caused by viral, bacterial, parasitic, and fungal pathogens. Recent studies show that sensory neurons are able to directly detect pathogens to mediate pain and itch. Nociceptor and pruriceptor neurons respond to pathogen-associated molecular patterns, including Toll-like receptor ligands, N-formyl peptides, and bacterial toxins. Other pathogens are able to silence neuronal activity to produce analgesia during infection. Pain and itch could lead to neuronal modulation of the immune system or behavioral avoidance of future pathogen exposure. Conversely, pathogens could modulate neuronal signaling to potentiate their pathogenesis and facilitate their spread to other hosts. Defining how pathogens modulate pain and itch has critical implications for sensory neurobiology and our understanding of host-microbe interactions.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Felipe Pinho-Ribeiro for help with drawing the figure. This review was supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health (NCCIH DP2AT009499 and NIAID K22AI114810), USA.

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Correspondence to Isaac M. Chiu.

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Chiu, I.M. Infection, Pain, and Itch. Neurosci. Bull. 34, 109–119 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12264-017-0098-1

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Keywords

  • Pain
  • Itch
  • Bacteria
  • Pathogens
  • Infection
  • Inflammation
  • Viruses