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Oxford University research has found that a little-studied and relatively unknown part of the human immune system could be twice as important as previously thought.

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Mucosal Associated Invariant T-cells (MAIT cells) were first identified in 1993 but largely ignored until recently. Australian researchers recently found that they had an important role in fighting bacterial infections. Now, the Oxford team, led by Professor Paul Klenerman, say that they also fight viruses. Their results are in the journal Nature Communications.

Researcher Bonnie van Wilgenburg said: 'MAIT cells are unlike any other part of the immune system because they are multipurpose, rather than responding to particular pathogens – the various bacteria, viruses and other microorganism that can cause disease.'

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