The Immune Response

The immune system typically recognizes the invading pathogen at the site of entry, where it launches a generalized innate immune response. Signal molecules recruit inflammatory cells to the area which engulf cell debris and released virions. Virus proteins are presented to the adaptive immune system in local lymph nodes, allowing the host to create a directed defense against the virus. Effector T cells specific for virus antigen stimulate B cells to secrete virus-specific antibodies. There are two predominate types of antibodies produced in response to virus infection, IgM and IgG. The first antibody produced is the IgM isotype and is present in the blood within days and remains in circulation for several months. As the adaptive response develops, B cells switch antibody isotypes to secrete the IgG form. Investigators use the detection of antibodies as indicators of virus exposure, and can utilize knowledge of the presence of specific isotypes to discern acute infection from past or chronic infection. Detection of IgM or rising titers of IgG points to a recent virus exposure. Virus-specific antibodies are also used as tools in numerous serological assays. The specificity of the antibody is useful to distinguish between different virus types and to detect virus protein in clinical samples.

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