Recent research has stressed the importance of proper nutrition in fighting infections.
Richard Lamb and Virginie Mieulet of the University of Alberta have discovered that an amino acid, called arginine, is required to let the body know that it's being attacked by an infection.
It is still early in their work but this discovery could have implications for the millions of people in third world countries that do not get enough food and consequently become ill with infection.
In a healthy person, macrophages are the first cells to arrive at the site of infection.
According to Lamb it is known that arginine is essential for the function of macrophages but until now no one realized that arginine has a much bigger role.
In their most recent work, Lamb and Mieulet presented arginine to a laboratory model. These models were better able to fight infection even if they were malnourished.
"This is a major work," said Lamb. "If this holds true in humans it shows that one aspect of nutrition that is critical is the level of amino acids," he added.