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The body’s immune system is formed mostly by the white blood cells in the
circulation. When a foreign pathogen enters the body, it carries foreign antigens,
which the white blood cells recognise as being foreign and so will attack.
The phagocytes (neutrophils/granulocytes) squeeze through the gaps in the
capillary walls by a process called diapedesis. They move by pseudopodia and
amoeboid movement. They surround the pathogens at the wound and then engulf
bacteria by phagocytosis. Phagocytes have granules containing enzymes that destroy
these bacteria. Residing in the tissues are tissue phagocytes called macrophages,
which can also engulf and destroy many bacteria.
The main line of defence, however, is formed by the lymphocytes. These cells stay
in the circulation and are divided into B and T lymphocytes. The B cells are
capable of making antibodies while the T cells produce antitoxins that neutralise
any toxins/poisons produced by these bacteria. When the foreign antigens are
detected, the B lymphocyte carrying the gene to make the matching antibody clones
itself. This produces a clone of plasma cells that produce a large volume of
antibody. The antibody clump/destroy pathogens and remain in the circulation
giving lasting immunity. One of the cloned B lymphocytes remain as the memory cell
that stays forever, retaining its power to create the antibody quickly if the same
pathogen tries to re-infect the body.
The T lymphocytes can recognise self from non-self antigens and are believed to be
responsible for rejection of transplanted organs/tissues. The Helper T cell also
assists the B lymphocytes in cloning itself in order to secrete the antibody.

Immunity is defined as the ability of the body to withstand disease. Immunity is
usually achieved by relevant antibodies already being present in the blood, or the
memory cells being able to produce vast quantities of the antibody before the
pathogen has had a chance to multiply. Hence the disease will not develop or only
mild symptoms will appear and disappear quickly.
There are two types of immunity:
Active Immunity:
This is where the white blood cells actively produce the antibody themselves. It
can be induced by either infection (disease) or by vaccination. Vaccination with a
killed form of the pathogen tricks the body into generating the antibody and
memory cells. Hence active immunity provides a long-term effect.
Passive Immunity:
This is where the body receives already made antibodies instead of producing them.
It can be brought about by
• Injection of already made antibodies/serum
• From mother via the placenta
• From mother via breast feeding
These antibodies tend to be broken down by the body and thus bring about only a
short- term effect.