Platelets as Immune Cells in Infectious Diseases

Cornelia Speth; Jürgen Löffler; Sven Krappmann; Cornelia Lass-Flörl; Günter Rambach


Future Microbiol. 2013;8(11):1431-1451. 

In This Article

Future Perspective

Platelets circulate within the whole body and exert two principle functions: protection against bleeding and invading pathogens. Their multiple antimicrobial facets are beneficial, such as direct attack of the pathogens and recruitment and stimulation of other immune cells; however, the functional spectrum is balanced by harmful aspects, such as the contribution to tissue damage or even the support of microbe dissemination and survival. Further research in the coming years aims to implement and highlight these aspects for various infectious diseases.

The increasing insight into the connection between platelets and immune defense highlights the burning question whether drugs that affect the activation of the platelets also influence their antimicrobial capacity. However, a deeper understanding of the antimicrobial capacity of platelets and the role of platelets in the immune network might also open some new options to correct insufficient or exaggerated reactions of the platelets to pathogen contact. Future approaches might aim to interfere with microbial exploitation of the platelets, thus interfering with survival, dissemination and replication of the pathogens in the host.

There are other aspects that might alter the medication of patients in the far future. Platelet-derived antimicrobial peptides and synthetic peptides derived thereof are increasingly studied as new antimicrobial agents that might broaden our current therapeutic arsenal. Since some PMPs impair survival of different microbes, they could provide the base for effective broad-spectrum antimicrobials.

Furthermore, insights that viruses can exploit platelets for dissemination could be converted into new medical strategies. Since platelets can internalize recombinant lentiviruses without fusion of their envelope with the cell plasma membrane, platelets might be used in gene therapy for the transport of lentiviral vectors carrying therapeutic genes.