A recent research found that fat cells present under the skin are the first responders to an infection before white blood cells arrive at the wound site.The researchers asserted that the study findings suggest that the immune system is not wholly responsible for fighting against infection. Experiments done showed that, the fat cells first react to an infection by forming an anti-microbial compound.
In the study, the scientists exposed mice to Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). MRSA is a bacterium that causes serious and deadly infections in humans. After exposing the mice to MRSA, researchers noticed a thickened fat layer under the skin at the site of an infection. Furthermore, fat cells in the thickened layer produced an anti-microbial compound known as Cathelicidin.
These findings led to the conclusion that, fat cells directly sense the bacteria and appropriately react first. Accordingly, it was revealed that mice lacking healthy fat cells under the skin, suffered a more severe infection of MRSA.
The researchers also mentioned that, having a lot of body fat will not offer increased protection against infections, and thus is not healthy. Instead, having increased amount of body fat, like in obesity, will result in fat cells having impaired functions. This could explain the results of previous studies that maintained that obese people might be at increased risk of skin infections.