More specifically, Mitchell and her colleagues examined the levels of cytokines in pregnant women. Cytokines are signaling molecules that regulate immunity and inflammation.
They are sometimes called emergency molecules because they are released by the body to fight off sickness, as they help cells to communicate with each other when there is inflammation in the body. Cytokines are part of the body's natural immune response, but they can cause disease when released persistently. This is similar to how inflammation is a crucial component of the immune response, but too much of it can cause achiness and fatigue.
The study analyzed cytokine levels both in the blood and in the bacteria-exposed laboratory sample.