To understand exactly how lipopolysaccharides and gram-negative bugs affect the immune system we must first investigate what lipopolysaccharides are and their role in gram-negative bacteria and the human body as a whole.
Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) are large molecules consisting of a lipid (fatty acid) and a polysaccharide composed of the O-antigen, outer core, and the inner core all joined by covalent bonds. Lipid A in LPS is the hydrophobic component responsible for the major bioactivity of LPS. Hydrophilic polysaccharides consist of long chains of monosaccharides (simple sugars) linked together by glycosidic linkages. LPS play their role in the outer membrane of gram-negative bacteria by supporting the structure of the bacteria and shielding the membrane from chemical attack. Gram-negative bacteria are related to foodborne diseases, respiratory infections, plagues, and some sexually transmitted diseases. Some gram-negative bacteria have become so resistant to antibiotic drugs that they are often very difficult to treat and unfortunately vaccines are not available for these types of bacterial infections. Additional enzymes can sometimes alter the structure of the LPS, and though the structure is not required for the bacteria’s survival it is closely related to the virulence of bacteria. For example, the lipid A component of LPS can cause toxic reactions when lysed by immune cells. LPS in humans trigger the immune system to produce cytokines (hormone regulators). Production of cytokines is a common cause of inflammation.
Now that we are able to recognize the relationship between LPS, gram-negative bacteria, and inflammation/infections in the human body, we must understand how to prevent and treat infections related to gram-negative bacteria. Gram-negative bacterial infections are caused by contact between infected and non-infected peoples. They are very common in healthcare settings, but by taking simple measures such as hand washing and keeping a strong immune system will help prevent them. How do we keep a strong immune system? Choosing a healthy lifestyle is the first most basic step in this process. Because the immune system is a system, we must understand that there is no direct way to improve its strength. It is strengthened through what we put into our body and how we treat our body. However, it is important to distinguish between building a strong immune system and boosting the number of immune cells in our body. It is potentially harmful to boost the number of immune cells because there are so many different kinds of cells in the immune system that respond to so many different microbes in so many ways. Diet, exercise, reducing stress levels, and some herbs and supplements all contribute to building and supporting a strong immune system.
Throughout this article, we have learned about lipopolysaccharides and the role they play in gram-negative bacteria. Gram-negative bacteria are known to be harmful to the human body so we have found ways to prevent the harmful infections it causes. The immune system plays an obviously important role in fighting infections, but it needs to be strong to support our body and fight infections efficiently. This basic knowledge is provided to set the basis for further research on how to support the immune system.