How the Immune System Works:
This is a very complex subject and we are learning more all the time, but I can give you a very simple understanding here. I will do this by giving you the order of events that occurs when you are infected with a bacteria.
- Bacteria breaks through one of our barriers such as the skin, the lining of the respiratory or digestive tract, or the lining of the urinary or reproductive tract.
- A cell called a phagocyte (literally “eating cell”) eats the foreign invader. The phagocyte destroys the bacteria, but it cannot destroy enough of them; it needs help.
- It will leave the area of infection and travel through the lymph vessels to a lymph node.
- In the lymph node, the phagocyte “presents” pieces of the bacteria on the outside surface of its membrane (outer covering).
- T-lymphocytes (T-cells) literally comb the surface of the phagocyte looking for a piece of the bacteria that it recognizes. This piece is called an antigen. Each T-lymphocyte can only be activated by one antigen. When the correct T-lymphocyte finally finds the antigen on the surface of the phagocyte, it is activated.
- The T-lymphocyte is like the officer in charge of the immune system. It sends out chemical messages to other cells of the immune system to attack. Phagocytes become more active. B-lymphocytes are also activated.
- B-lymphocytes are the cells that make antibodies. Antibodies target the invading bacteria signaling the immune system to attack that specific bacteria. This is an ingenious way to make the immune response more efficient and also less destructive to your own body. Antibodies are also specific for only one antigen.
- After most of the bacteria are destroyed, Regulatory T-Cells stop this whole process so the immune system can go back to “watch and wait” mode.