CLL Support Association
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The bugs we carry and how our immune system fights them

The bugs we carry and how our immune system fights them

'Human beings are large, complex, multicellular, multi-organ systems. We reproduce slowly and rely on a breadth of mechanisms that allow us to control the myriad of rapidly replicating, simple life forms that have evolved to live in or on us.

The system of defence is referred to collectively as immunity.

The word itself comes from the Latin immunis, describing the status of returned soldiers (Genio immunium) in the Roman state who were, for a time, exempt from paying taxes.

Our immunity protects us from many illnesses, including some forms of cancer. New cancer therapeutics, called immunotherapies, work by boosting our immune cells to fight cancer cells that have found ways to evade them.


There’s also a spectrum of viruses that persistently infect our body tissues. The most familiar are herpes viruses, like those that cause cold sores (H. simplex) and shingles (H. zoster). Both viruses hide out in the nervous system and are normally under immune control. They re-emerge to cause problems as a consequence of tissue stress (such as a sunburnt lip) or as immunity declines with age (shingles) - or with falling immunity due to the impact or CLL on our immune system or immune system suppression from CLL treatment - Neil


How does our immune system learn and remember?

All lymphocyte responses work by massive cell division in the lymph nodes (the “glands” in our neck that swell when we get a sore throat). This process is started by small numbers of “naive” B and T cells that haven’t encountered the invader before, and only stops when the foreign invader is eliminated. (Remember this next time a lymph node suddenly becomes enlarged and painful when you have an infection - Neil)

The B cells differentiate into large protein-secreting cells called plasma cells, which produce the protective antibodies (immunoglobulins) that circulate for years in our blood. (CLL cells suppress this process as part of the way they protect themselves from T-cell cancer surveillance. That's why we don't tend to respond well to vaccinations and why some of us need IgG infusions to bolster our immunoglobulin G levels - Neil.)


Prior infection or the administration of non-living or “attenuated” (to cause a very mild infection) vaccines sets up the memory so protective antibodies are immediately available to bind (and neutralise) pathogens like the polio or measles virus.' Hence the emphasis on getting your non-live vaccinations up to date in THINGS WE CAN DO to improve our CLL journey:

Full article by Peter C. Doherty, who is a Chief Investigator on an NHMRC Program grant focused on immunity to the influenza viruses:


2 Replies

I thought you might put this on hu. Neil . I read it too.. well I skipped through it. A good article for reference.

1 like

Good Post Neil and reference comments to CLL for us Newbies.


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