Immunity - Immunization

Immunity: Understand the aspects

Immunity is the body’s defense mechanism against disease-causing organisms, known as pathogens. Every day, our bodies encounter numerous pathogens, yet only a few lead to illnesses. This is because our immune system releases antibodies to combat these pathogens and protect us from diseases. This defense mechanism is what we refer to as immunity.

Types of Immunity

There are two primary types of immunity:

  1. Innate Immunity: Also known as natural or non-specific immunity, this type of immunity is present in an organism from birth. It serves as the body’s immediate response to pathogens and includes physical barriers and defense mechanisms that prevent the entry of foreign particles.
  2. Acquired Immunity: Also called adaptive immunity, this type of immunity develops over time as a result of exposure to pathogens or their antigens. Unlike innate immunity, acquired immunity is not present at birth and is characterized by a specific response to particular pathogens.

Innate Immunity

Innate immunity acts as the body’s first line of defense against pathogens. It includes various barriers and defense mechanisms such as physical barriers (skin, respiratory tract), physiological barriers (stomach acid), cellular barriers (white blood cells), and cytokine barriers (interferons).

Cells involved in innate immunity include phagocytes, macrophages, mast cells, neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, natural killer cells, and dendritic cells. These cells work together to detect, engulf, and destroy pathogens, preventing the spread of infections.

Immunity barriers are the body’s defense mechanisms that prevent the entry and spread of pathogens, thereby protecting against infections. These barriers can be categorized into several types based on their functions and locations in the body:

  1. Physical Barriers: These are the outermost layers of the body that physically prevent pathogens from entering. Examples include:
    • Skin: The skin acts as a physical barrier that prevents pathogens from penetrating into the body. It serves as a protective barrier due to its thick, tough structure and the presence of antimicrobial substances on its surface.
    • Mucous Membranes: Mucous membranes line the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and genitourinary tracts, producing mucus that traps pathogens and prevents them from entering tissues.
  2. Physiological Barriers: These barriers involve physiological processes that inhibit the growth and spread of pathogens. Examples include:
    • Acidic Environment: The stomach produces hydrochloric acid, creating an acidic environment that kills many pathogens ingested with food and water.
    • Enzymes and Proteins: Various enzymes and proteins in bodily fluids (e.g., saliva, tears, mucus) possess antimicrobial properties and help to neutralize or destroy pathogens.
  3. Cellular Barriers: These barriers involve specialized immune cells that detect and eliminate pathogens. Examples include:
    • Phagocytes: Phagocytes, such as macrophages and neutrophils, engulf and digest pathogens, effectively clearing them from the body.
    • Natural Killer Cells: Natural killer cells are a type of lymphocyte that can recognize and destroy infected or abnormal cells, preventing the spread of infection.
  4. Cytokine Barriers: These barriers involve signaling molecules called cytokines that coordinate the immune response. Examples include:
    • Interferons: Interferons are cytokines released by infected cells to alert neighboring cells of an imminent viral infection, stimulating them to produce antiviral proteins and inhibit viral replication.

Overall, immunity barriers work together to provide comprehensive protection against pathogens, forming the body’s first line of defense against infections.

Innate immunity is the body’s first line of defense against pathogens and foreign substances. Several types of cells are involved in innate immunity, each playing a crucial role in detecting and eliminating pathogens.

Innate immunity involves various cells that play crucial roles in the body’s initial defense against pathogens. These cells are part of the innate immune system, which is the first line of defense against infections and operates in a non-specific manner.

Key cells involved in innate immunity?

  1. Phagocytes: Phagocytes are a type of white blood cell that engulf and digest pathogens, dead cells, and other debris. There are several types of phagocytes, including:
    • Neutrophils: Neutrophils are the most abundant type of white blood cell and are typically the first responders to infections. They are highly mobile and are recruited to sites of infection where they engulf and destroy pathogens.
    • Macrophages: Macrophages are large phagocytes found in tissues throughout the body. They are derived from monocytes, a type of white blood cell, and play a key role in engulfing and digesting pathogens, as well as in tissue repair and remodeling.
    • Dendritic Cells: Dendritic cells are specialized antigen-presenting cells that capture and process antigens from pathogens. They then present these antigens to T cells, initiating adaptive immune responses.
    • Eosinophils and Basophils: These are other types of granulocytes that play roles in inflammation and defense against parasites.
  2. Natural Killer (NK) Cells: Natural killer cells are a type of lymphocyte that plays a critical role in the innate immune response against virally infected cells and tumor cells. NK cells recognize and kill target cells without the need for prior activation.
  3. Mast Cells: Mast cells are tissue-resident immune cells found in the skin and mucosal tissues. They play a role in allergic reactions and host defense by releasing inflammatory mediators such as histamine and cytokines in response to pathogens.
  4. Complement System Cells: The complement system consists of a group of proteins that circulate in the blood and tissue fluids. These proteins work together to enhance the ability of antibodies and phagocytes to clear pathogens. Cells involved in the complement system include complement proteins and cells that express complement receptors.

These cells work together to provide rapid and non-specific defense against a wide range of pathogens, helping to prevent infection and maintain tissue homeostasis.

The organs of the immune system can be classified into primary and secondary lymphoid organs based on their roles in the development and activation of immune cells.

hogens, maintain immune tolerance to self-antigens, and regulate immune homeostasis in the body.

Acquired Immunity

Acquired immunity develops after exposure to pathogens or their antigens. It involves a complex interplay of B-cells and T-cells, which are specialized types of white blood cells.

B-cells produce antibodies that specifically target and neutralize pathogens. This process, known as the humoral immune response, involves the production of antibodies that circulate in the bloodstream and provide long-term protection against pathogens.

T-cells play a crucial role in cell-mediated immunity, where they identify and destroy infected cells. This response is essential for eliminating pathogens that evade antibody-mediated immunity.

B cells and T cells are two types of lymphocytes, or white blood cells, that play crucial roles in the immune system’s response to pathogens and foreign invaders.

B Cells:

  1. Function: B cells are responsible for producing antibodies, also known as immunoglobulins, which are specialized proteins that recognize and neutralize specific antigens, such as viruses, bacteria, and toxins. When a B cell encounters its target antigen, it undergoes activation and differentiation into plasma cells, which are antibody-secreting factories. These antibodies circulate in the bloodstream and other bodily fluids, binding to antigens and marking them for destruction by other immune cells.
  2. Memory B Cells: After an infection or vaccination, some B cells differentiate into memory B cells, which remain in the body for a long time. If the same antigen reappears, memory B cells can rapidly mount a secondary immune response by quickly producing large quantities of antibodies, providing faster and more effective protection against the pathogen.

T Cells:

  1. Function: T cells are involved in cell-mediated immunity, which primarily targets infected or abnormal cells. There are several types of T cells, including helper T cells, cytotoxic T cells, and regulatory T cells, each with specific functions:
    • Helper T Cells (CD4+ T Cells): Helper T cells play a central role in coordinating and regulating the immune response. They recognize antigens presented by antigen-presenting cells (APCs) and release signaling molecules called cytokines, which activate other immune cells, including B cells, cytotoxic T cells, and macrophages.
    • Cytotoxic T Cells (CD8+ T Cells): Cytotoxic T cells directly kill infected or abnormal cells by releasing toxic molecules, such as perforin and granzymes, which induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in the target cells. This helps eliminate intracellular pathogens, such as viruses and certain bacteria, as well as cancerous or mutated cells.
    • Regulatory T Cells (Tregs): Regulatory T cells help maintain immune tolerance and prevent excessive immune responses that could lead to autoimmune diseases or hypersensitivity reactions. They suppress the activity of other immune cells, such as effector T cells, to prevent immune-mediated damage to healthy tissues.
  2. Memory T Cells: Similar to memory B cells, memory T cells are formed after exposure to a specific antigen and persist in the body for long periods. Memory T cells can quickly recognize and respond to the same antigen upon re-exposure, contributing to the rapid and robust secondary immune response.

B cells and T cells work together in a coordinated manner to mount effective immune responses against pathogens, providing both humoral (antibody-mediated) and cell-mediated immunity. Their ability to recognize and remember specific antigens is essential for long-term protection against infectious diseases.

Types of Acquired Immunity

  • Active Immunity: Occurs when the body produces its antibodies in response to exposure to a pathogen or its antigen. It can be natural (resulting from infection) or artificial (resulting from vaccination).
  • Passive Immunity: Involves the transfer of antibodies from one individual to another. It can be natural (maternal antibodies transferred to the fetus) or artificial (administration of antibodies to treat or prevent disease).

Active and passive immunity are two types of immune responses that provide protection against infectious diseases, but they differ in how they are acquired and how long they last.

Active Immunity:

  1. Natural Active Immunity: This type of immunity occurs at the time of body exposure to a pathogen naturally, such as during an infection. The immune system responds by producing antibodies and memory cells specific to that pathogen. If the person encounters the same pathogen again, their immune system can mount a faster and stronger response, preventing or minimizing the severity of the illness. Natural active immunity can last for many years or even a lifetime.
  2. Artificial Active Immunity: Artificial active immunity cab be achieved through vaccination. Vaccines contain weakened or inactivated forms of pathogens or their antigens, which stimulate the immune system to produce a protective immune response without causing illness. Like natural active immunity, artificial active immunity involves the production of antibodies and memory cells. However, it does not require the individual to become sick from the disease. The immunity provided by vaccination can vary in duration, ranging from several years to a lifetime, depending on the vaccine and individual factors.

Passive Immunity:

  1. Natural Passive Immunity: Natural passive immunity occurs when antibodies are transferred from a mother to her baby during pregnancy or through breastfeeding. These antibodies provide temporary protection to the newborn against certain diseases until their own immune system matures. However, natural passive immunity is short-lived and gradually wanes as the transferred antibodies are metabolized by the baby’s body.
  2. Artificial Passive Immunity: Artificial passive immunity involves the administration of pre-formed antibodies obtained from another individual or animal. This can be done through the injection of immune serum or purified antibodies, providing immediate but temporary protection against a specific pathogen. Artificial passive immunity is often used for emergency situations, such as to prevent or treat certain infections or to provide temporary protection to individuals who are unable to mount an immune response, such as immunocompromised individuals or those exposed to a deadly pathogen.

active immunity produces more antibodies and memory cells by the individual’s own immune system, either through natural exposure to a pathogen or through vaccination. Passive immunity, on the other hand, involves the transfer of pre-formed antibodies from another source, providing immediate but temporary protection. Both types of immunity play important roles in protecting individuals from infectious diseases.


Autoimmunity occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s tissues and organs instead of foreign pathogens. Examples include type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.


Vaccines stimulate the immune system to produce an immune response against specific pathogens, providing protection against future infections. They contain antigens derived from pathogens, allowing the body to develop immunity without experiencing the disease.

Primary Lymphoid Organs:

  1. Bone Marrow: This is where hematopoiesis occurs, the process of producing all types of blood cells, including immune cells. In the bone marrow, hematopoietic stem cells differentiate into various immune cell precursors, including B cells and some types of T cells. B cells undergo maturation in the bone marrow before migrating to secondary lymphoid organs.
  2. Thymus: The thymus is primarily responsible for the maturation and selection of T cells, a type of lymphocyte crucial for cell-mediated immunity. T cell precursors from the bone marrow migrate to the thymus, where they undergo differentiation, selection, and maturation processes. The thymus is most active during childhood and adolescence and gradually involutes with age.

Secondary Lymphoid Organs:

  1. Lymph Nodes: Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped structures distributed throughout the body along the lymphatic system. They serve as filtering stations for lymphatic fluid, which carries immune cells, pathogens, and other substances. Lymph nodes contain specialized compartments where immune cells interact and mount immune responses against pathogens present in the lymph.
  2. Spleen: The spleen is the largest secondary lymphoid organ in the body and acts as a filter for blood, removing old or damaged red blood cells and pathogens. Spleen contains specialized areas, which are called white pulp, where immune cells concentrates and interact with antigens. The spleen plays a crucial role in both innate and adaptive immune responses.
  3. Mucosa-Associated Lymphoid Tissue (MALT): MALT diffuse system of lymphoid tissue found in various mucous membranes throughout the body, which includes the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, and genitourinary tract. MALT serves as the first line of defense against pathogens that enter the body through mucosal surfaces. Examples of MALT include tonsils, Peyer’s patches in the intestine, and lymphoid follicles in the respiratory tract.
  4. Skin-Associated Lymphoid Tissue (SALT): SALT refers to immune cells and structures found in the skin, including Langerhans cells (dendritic cells), T cells, and others. The skin serves as a physical barrier against pathogens, and SALT helps to detect and eliminate pathogens that breach this barrier.

These primary and secondary lymphoid organs work together to generate and activate immune responses against pat

The Immune System

The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend the body against infections and diseases. It includes lymphoid organs such as the bone marrow, thymus, spleen, lymph nodes, and tonsils, which produce and store immune cells.

Immunity Boosting, daily physical activities.
Immunity Boosting, daily physical activities.

How to improve Immunity Naturally:

Improving immunity naturally involves adopting healthy lifestyle habits and incorporating immune-boosting foods and activities into your routine. Here are some effective ways to enhance your immunity naturally:

  1. Eat a Balanced Diet: Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats daily to ensure getting essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that support immune function.
  2. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water daily to maintain hydration, which is essential for overall health and proper immune function.
  3. Get Sufficient Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep everyday which allows your body to rest, repair, and regenerate. Lack of sleep can weaken the immune system.
  4. Manage Stress: Practice stress-reducing techniques like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or spending time in nature to lower stress hormones like cortisol and support improving immune function.
  5. Regular Exercise: Engage in moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week to support overall health and immune function. Aim for a mix of cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises.
  6. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Obesity can negatively impact immune function, hence maintain helthy weight with balanced diet and regular exercise.
  7. Limit Alcohol and Avoid Smoking: Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking can weaken the immune system. Therefore, limiting alcohol intake and avoid smoking helps to support immune health.
  8. Practice Good Hygiene: Washing hands frequently with soap and water, before eating or touching your face, to prevent the infections.
  9. Supplement Wisely: Consider taking supplements like vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, probiotics, and echinacea, which supports immune function. However, always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplements.
  10. Get Sunlight Exposure: Spend time outdoors to get natural sunlight, which contains Vitamin D nutrient which improves our immunity.
  11. Stay Socially Connected: Maintain social connections with friends and family, as loneliness and social isolation can weaken the immune system.
  12. Practice Good Hygiene: Wash your hands regularly, before eating or touching your face. Hence, practicing proper food safety measures help to reduce the risk of infections.

By incorporating the above strategies into your daily life, you can support your body’s ability to improve immunity.

In summary, immunity is a vital aspect of human health, protecting us from a wide range of infectious diseases. Understanding the different types of immunity and immune system functions are essential for maintaining overall well-being and preventing illness.

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Prashant V