A curious coincidence has occurred: I am reviewing immunology and within 24 hours I have the flu. I have all the disagreeable body sensations I just studied. It is small comfort, having the knowledge the severe aches and loss of energy are coming from interleukins (mostly type 2).

As there is nothing I can do, here is “Immunology 101” written mostly so I can remember it.  Perhaps Spo-fans may find it interesting.

The point of  ‘life’  gets down to “sex and not dying”. While the former is an option (although jolly good fun) the latter is indispensable.  We are continually barraged by wee-beasties (properly called pathogens). They are hell bent on using us as food or as a breeding ground.  Happily we have an intricate and awesome defense called ‘The Immune System” which works to not make this not so.  It is a marvel of nature, to be sure.

The immune system is divided into two types: the innate and the acquired immune system.

The innate system (what you are both with):  Our first line of defense is the skin. We think of it as holding things in but it serves to keep things out.  It secretes oils and acids to help wash away pathogens. We live in harmony with ‘our own wee-beasties” which help us keep off the riffraff.    There are also the mucus membranes which secrete things to wash away the invaders.

2nd line of defense is inflammation. Mast cells secrete histamine which allows white blood cells (WBCs) and fluid to seep into an area. Redness, heat, and swelling help keep down pathogens who got past the first line.

immune system

Got it?

The acquired immune system is a complicated ballet of several types of white blood cells working with each other to produce antibodies, kill infected cells, and ‘keep records’ so a second invasion is not possible.  It is frightfully complicated and more than when I was in medical school.There are T cells, and B cells and NK cells (Natural Killer cells).  The later is my favorite as it is the cell type we got trained to kill off other cells.  Resistance is useless.


Those familiar with HIV know of ’T-helper cells”. These are specialized white blood cells who ‘sound the alarm’ and tell a variety of other cells there is an invasion and do something about it now.  HIV attacks and kills T-helper cells.  So there are no “Paul Revere” cells and the body can’t surmount an attack on invaders. HIV doesn’t ‘kill’; pathogens which are normally fought off is what kills HIV patients, through opportunistic infections.

Although I am appreciative of my immune system (currently quite active), I will be grateful when this present battle is over.  I don’t make a good patient, really.  Just ask Someone or see “Diary of a mad housewife”.