To understand how autoimmunity occurs, one first needs to review the basic processes of immune response and immune regulation. Host defense mechanisms can be broadly defined as 2 types: innate and adaptive (or antigen-specific) immunity.1'2 Although adaptive immunity is usually the most effective mechanism for eliminating invading organisms, this response is relatively slow, taking up to 7 to 10 days for effective primary immune responses and 2 to 3 days for anamnestic or memory responses. During this time, rapidly proliferating infectious agents could produce significant tissue injury and possibly death of the organism if left uncontrolled. For this reason, broadly reactive host responses, which are constantly maintained or can be rapidly induced, are essential in containing infections until the adaptive immune response "kicks in."
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