The human complement system in health and disease

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Some T cells are actually called "killer cells.

Complement System - Immunology; Allergic Disorders - MSD Manual Professional Edition

Antibodies also can neutralize toxins poisonous or damaging substances produced by different organisms. Lastly, antibodies can activate a group of proteins called complement that are also part of the immune system.

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Complement assists in killing bacteria, viruses, or infected cells. All of these specialized cells and parts of the immune system offer the body protection against disease. This protection is called immunity. Everyone is born with innate or natural immunity, a type of general protection. Many of the germs that affect other species don't harm us.


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For example, the viruses that cause leukemia in cats or distemper in dogs don't affect humans. Innate immunity also includes the external barriers of the body, like the skin and mucous membranes like those that line the nose, throat, and gastrointestinal tract , which are the first line of defense in preventing diseases from entering the body. The second kind of protection is adaptive or active immunity, which develops throughout our lives.

Complement 1 - Overview

Adaptive immunity involves the lymphocytes and develops as people are exposed to diseases or immunized against diseases through vaccination. Passive immunity is "borrowed" from another source and it lasts for a short time.

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For example, antibodies in a mother's breast milk give a baby temporary immunity to diseases the mother has been exposed to. This can help protect the baby against infection during the early years of childhood.

Everyone's immune system is different. Some people never seem to get infections, whereas others seem to be sick all the time. As people get older, they usually become immune to more germs as the immune system comes into contact with more and more of them. That's why adults and teens tend to get fewer colds than kids — their bodies have learned to recognize and immediately attack many of the viruses that cause colds.

Immunodeficiencies happen when a part of the immune system is missing or not working properly. Immunodeficiencies also can be acquired through infection or produced by drugs these are sometimes called secondary immunodeficiencies. Immunodeficiencies can affect B lymphocytes, T lymphocytes, or phagocytes. Examples of primary immunodeficiencies that can affect kids and teens are:. Acquired or secondary immunodeficiencies usually develop after someone has a disease, although they can also be the result of malnutrition, burns, or other medical problems. Certain medicines also can cause problems with the functioning of the immune system.

In autoimmune disorders, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's healthy organs and tissues as though they were foreign invaders. Autoimmune diseases include:. Allergic disorders happen when the immune system overreacts to exposure to antigens in the environment.

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The substances that provoke such attacks are called allergens. The immune response can cause symptoms such as swelling, watery eyes, and sneezing, and even a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. Medicines called antihistamines can relieve most symptoms. The human complement system in health and disease pp. New York: Marcel Dekker.


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    The Complement System

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