Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, much has been said about immunity. But after all, do you know how it functions? We’ll explain.
The immune system is made up of organs, tissues, and cells that work together to protect the body from various diseases, which can be caused by microbes, bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi, the so-called pathogens.
In this way, this complex system recognizes foreign cells and substances, as well as destroys or neutralizes the invading agents. This coordinated action between the components is what defines whether the body will develop a disease or not, besides being fundamental in the recovery process.
In short: when a pathogen invades the organism, the immune system identifies this pathogen and activates defense mechanisms to fight infection. This ability of our body to protect itself is what we call immunity.
The immune response is mediated through leukocytes, the body’s main defense cells. Also known as white blood cells, they are produced in the bone marrow and then go to different parts of the body.
Leukocytes are classified into several types, which perform distinct and complementary functions. Thus, the cells belonging to the immune system are:
- Lymphocytes: which guarantee specificity to the immune response and, commonly, are more altered during infections. These cells further divide into B, T, and NK lymphocytes.
- Monocytes: these cells are important to fight pathogens in the body.
- Neutrophils: circulating in higher concentrations, they are the first cells to identify and act against infections.
- Eosinophils: despite circulating in smaller quantities, during allergic reactions or parasitic, bacterial, or fungal infections, eosinophils have their concentration increased.
- Basophils: also characterized by circulation in a lower concentration, these cells may increase due to allergies or prolonged inflammation.
These cells work together to fight offending agents. Therefore, when the bone marrow produces few leukocytes, the body is more susceptible to infections.
Also, another important point to be taken into account is the immunity forms. That’s because our immune system can have two main responses: the innate immune response and the adaptive immune response. Understand better below.
INNATE IMMUNE RESPONSE
The innate or natural immune response is the organism’s first line of defense and is characterized by its speed and low specificity. Within our body since birth, it is stimulated when a microorganism invades it. Thus, this type of immunity can consist of:
Cell barriers: which are responsible for encompassing the pathogen and destroying it. They are made up of cells considered as the first line of defense, which are macrophages, NK lymphocytes, and neutrophils.
Physical barriers: acting to prevent or delay the entry of foreign bodies, they are skin, hair, and mucus.
Physiological barriers: to prevent the microorganism from developing itself in the body and promote elimination, there is gastric acid, body temperature, and cytokines.
The innate immune system is considered to be very efficient, so infections do not usually occur all the time, since the microorganisms are eliminated quickly. Despite this, if natural immunity fails to fight the pathogen, adaptive immunity comes into play.
ADAPTIVE IMMUNE RESPONSE OR ACQUIRED IMMUNITY
Also known as acquired immunity, this form of immunization is the body’s second line of defense. It is through it that memory cells are generated, so they can prevent future infections by the same microorganism or make it less severe.
Thus, despite the delay in establishing the memory cells, the adaptive immune response is more specific, as it identifies particular characteristics of each pathogen, leading to the immune response.
This type of response is acctivated when it comes in contact with infectious agents, generating one of two types:
- Cellular immunity: this is the immune response mediated by T-type lymphocytes. These cause the destruction of the microorganism or the death of infected cells, depending on the case.
- Humoral immunity: is the response mediated by antibodies produced by type B lymphocytes.
There is also an active and passive classification for the adaptive immune response. The first is related to immunity acquired through the vaccine, for example. The “passive”, is when immune cells comes from another person, as in breastfeeding, in which antibodies can be transmitted from the mother to the child.
SYMPTOMS OF WEAKENED IMMUNE SYSTEM
Several symptoms are associated with low immunity, the most common being:
- Flu and cold;
- Weakness and tiredness.
Symptoms can appear simultaneously, combined with other signs. Therefore, it is important to examine the cause of the problem in order to treat it correctly.
And for those who want to avoid possible problems with immunity, it is worth keeping an eye on these tips:
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