Immune detection of microbial viability is increasingly recognized as a potent driver of innate and adaptive immune responses. Here we describe recent mechanistic insights into the process of how the immune system discriminates between viable and non-viable microbial matter. Accumulating evidence suggests a key role for microbial RNA as a widely conserved viability associated PAMP (vita-PAMP) and a molecular signal of increased infectious threat. Toll-like receptor 8 (TLR8) has recently emerged as a critical sensor for viable bacteria, ssRNA viruses, and archaea in human antigen presenting cells (APC). We discuss the role of microbial RNA, and other potential vita-PAMPs in antimicrobial immunity and vaccine responses.
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