3 Surprising Ways In Which Your Body Fights Infection
Our bodies have to fight infection all of the time, if they couldn't we would soon be infested with pathogens (disease causing organisms) and our organs would begin to fail us!
Since there are billions of different pathogens with different abilities, it is very reasonable to assume that we have a lot of abilities and fight off disease in a number of different ways.
Fortunately, the human body is very well equipped and most of the time we don't even feel the symptoms of an infection!
1. The Brain
The human brain is a feat of evolution so underestimated that it would not even be considered by some as the main reason for why humans have survived. The structure of the human brain is such that we are curious and seek answers, this includes the science of pathology.
Thanks to the human brain, we have managed to create vaccines, medicines, and established widespread dietary and hygiene precautions (think hospitals, balanced diets, exercise programs etc.) and quite importantly: free information on how to prevent diseases from spreading and taking effect.
In many countries, previously deadly diseases such as malaria in Europe and the USA have been eradicated completely; and let's not forget the global eradication of Smallpox through the use of widespread vaccination! Thanks brain!
Inflammation caused by a splinter explained
- After a graze or cut, our bodies are vulnerable to becoming infected at that site. The body's first line of defence against getting infected is to quickly form a blood clot at the site of damage. Most of the time however, there is enough time for some sort of infection to sneak its way into our system.
- The white blood and mast cells which were physically damaged at the site release many chemicals such as histamine.
- Histamine causes our arterioles in the area to dilate increasing the amount of blood going to the area of infection (the purpose of inflammation). Histamine also makes capillaries more permeable.Cells in the capillary separate slightly and this results in the leakage of plasma fluid, white blood cells and antibodies from our blood into our tissues which causes swelling.
- Since more white blood cells are now at the site of the infection, the infection can be fought off faster and safer than without inflammation.
- Also, due to the increased blood flow in the damaged area, the area becomes warmer to the point that the high temperature will denature (kill by changing their molecular structure) pathogens, preventing them from doing any more damage to our bodies.
A phagocyte using phagocytosis to get rid of a pathogen
Phagocytes basically "eat" pathogens. This "eating" is named phagocytosis.
Phagocytosis is the process of a cell ingesting foreign matter (in this case pathogen – disease causing microorganism). Cells that perform this role are called “phagocytes”. There are two main types of phagocytes:
Make up 70% of the white blood cells in our bodies
80 million of these are produced per minute
They last for only a few days
At the site of infection they engulf between 5 and 20 bacteria before they die.
Make up 4% of our white blood cells.
Circulate in the blood for 1-2 days before becoming macrophages where they engulf bacteria.
Macrophages live longer and have the potential to destroy as many as 100 bacteria.
Lysosomes within the phagocytic cells contain digestive enzymes and these are used to destroy the bacteria that are engulfed by them.
Through the ingestion of the pathogen, the infection is got rid of.
For extra information on Viruses and how they work read:
- How Viruses Work - Amazing Cells
Important information on what a virus is and how it spreads, works and common examples.
For extra information on Bacteria - Read:
- The Uses Of Bacteria
More information about the vital roles bacteria play in our world, their structure and examples.