In the first year of life, a child will develop many infections, particularly of the respiratory tract, middle ear or gastrointestinal system. A baby unfortunate enough to have been born without a functioning immune system is unlikely to survive the first year because of the inability to fight these infections. The importance of the immune system is also vividly illustrated by the almost invariably fatal acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), in which the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) destroys the immune system.
The purpose of this chapter is to provide a brief outline of the basics of the immune response, and to set the stage for the more detailed chapters to follow. One of the easiest ways to understand the concepts and nomenclature of a complex system is to look at how the relevant concepts developed. This chapter therefore begins with a brief account of the history of antibody research, and then moves on to look at a typical antibody response.
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