Although most viral infections cause minor, if any, symptoms, a certain number result in serious illness. Viral disease symptoms result both from direct viral replication within host cells and from indirect immunopathological consequences. Dendritic cells (DCs) are key determinants of viral disease outcome; they activate immune responses during viral infection and direct T cells toward distinct T helper type responses. Certain viruses are able to skew cytokine secretion by DCs inducing and/or downregulating the immune system with the aim of facilitating and prolonging release of progeny. Thus, the interaction of DCs with viruses most often results in the absence of disease or complete recovery when natural functions of DCs prevail, but may lead to chronic illness or death when these functions are outmanoeuvred by viruses in the exploitation of DCs.
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