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Our amazing immune system, what parts of it could keep us safe from COVID-19.
Our immune system has the amazing ability to remember a pathogen (virus) that has made you sick. If you had Covid-19 your immune system has adapted so it recognizes the SARS-CoV-2 if it enters your body in the future. This incredible ability is part of your adaptive immune system.
In this article I will explain the key components of the immune system’s defense and memory and also what research is showing to be promising for the longevity of our immunity to Covid-19 for both, those that have gotten the vaccine or those that contracted COVID-19 and recovered. It’s looks promising that our immunity could last for years or maybe your lifetime!
Some key components:
Pathogen- a virus, bacteria, fungus or chemical that is foreign to our body
Antigen- molecules on the outside of a pathogen cell wall that are specific to that pathogen that our immune system can recognize.
Innate Immune system- Our first line of defense against a pathogen invader. Skin, mucus, cough reflex, stomach acid, defense cells including Macrophage, NK , Dendritic
Macrophage- Large cells that circulate in the blood looking for pathogens. When found the Macrophage is able to engulf the pathogen and turn it into harmless waste. It also secretes cytokines that stimulate NK cells and Dendritic cells that seek out and sound the alarm to activate B cells and T cells
NK Cells- Natural Killer (NK) cells are white blood cells that are on the front line of our defense. NK cells engulf cells that have become infected by a pathogen, containing it until T cells specific to the pathogen/antigen dispose of the infected cell and the pathogen inside.
Dendritic cells- The messenger that seeks out the T and B cells and activates their line of defense
Adaptive Immune system- When the Innate system starts to get overcome the adaptive comes to the fight with a highly specialized set of cells and mechanisms. This is the part of our immune systems that has the “memory” and is ready to fight if it detects the same pathogen in the future.
Antibodies- part of the adaptive immune system, these proteins bind to an antigen marking the pathogen for destruction through multiple mechanisms.
T Cells- Part of your adaptive immune system. Their job is to target specific pathogens and latch on to it’s antigens. The T cell also signals the B cells to activate and differentiate into plasma cells that start making antibodies in mass quantities that circulate looking for the pathogen. They are a very important part of the immune system’s memory mechanism.
B Cells- One type of B cell live in the bone marrow and holds the memory of past pathogens. It recognizes antigens from previous infections and will bind to the antigen. Some B cells become plasma cells that produce huge quantities of antibodies that are specific to the pathogen that is invading. The memory B cells stay with us and recognize a pathogen from the past and are activated when that pathogen is seen again.
A simplistic view of how our immune system works when a pathogen appears or reappears:
Macrophages circulate through our blood in search of a pathogen. When a pathogen, new or reoccurring is found, the Macrophage engulfs it and through Phagocytosis breaks down the pathogen into harmless waste. If the assault of the pathogens is small the Macrophage cells end the infection there but if the assault is too great for the Macrophage defense the Macrophage send out signals in the form of cytokines that activate many reinforcements. NK cells are activated to contain and destroy our infected cells, the brain is signaled to create a fever, Dendritic cells go in search of the specific B and T cells to come to the fight and boom the adaptive immune system goes into a full frontal attack!
There are two types of T cells that kick in, one that produces B cells and another that helps and takes over for the NK cells in destroying infected cells. The T cells that were found and signaled by the dendritic cells are ones that have seen the pathogen before and their attack is highly specific to that pathogen (i.e. Covid-19).
The B cells have antibodies on their surface specific, once again, to the pathogen that is invading. Some of the B cells differentiate to plasma cells that produce mass quantities of antibodies specific to the antigens that are on the surface of the pathogen reeking havoc on the pathogen’s functions rendering the virus incapable of spreading and ready for destruction.
Other B cells differentiate into Memory cells that hide out in our bone marrow to fight another day if and when the pathogen returns.
It is the important memory cells, produced naturally or through a vaccine, of our fantastic immune system that will continue to protect us from severe illness. Yes you may contract Covid-19 and it’s variants again but it’s the B and T cells that will kick in and hopefully keep you out of the hospital.
Research (14) has been conducted and has demonstrated that those that have been vaccinated as well as those who have had COVID-19 (no shot) have similar protection from an occurrence or reoccurrence of the COVID-19 illness. The bright spot is that these protections for both groups could be long lived!
Antibodies that are produced by our immune system to fight the pathogen may reduce in numbers over time after the infection, but this research shows that they don’t completely go away and may hold steady at a lower level ready to elevate their game at a moments notice. The B cells and T cells stay with us after the infection or vaccine. The B and T cells lie in wait in different parts of the circulatory system waiting for the alert of the pathogen’s return in the body. It is these memory cells that spring into action quickly to produce antibodies and fight off any recurrence of the pathogen.
In a studies (7) conducted in Israel, involving a large number of participants, and at the Cleveland Clinic (8) involving a smaller sample group but still significant, it was studied to try to determine, because of shortages of the vaccine at the time, if people that had had COVID-19 needed to be given the vaccine. The numbers showed that the protection provided by the natural immunity of individuals that had had COVID-19 was as robust as that provided by the vaccine in the Israeli study. In the Cleveland Clinic study not one (0) of the previously infected were re-infected during the course of the study.
Unfortunately we will never rid the world of this nasty virus but through vaccine and natural immunity we will control it. With the use of some therapeutic medicines and maintaining a healthy immune system we will manage this and move on to life as the new normal.
Stay healthy, eat well, exercise and supplement when necessary with a non-synthetic plant-based multi vitamin like that produced by Mountain Rescue Nutrients! MrNutrients.com
Keep your immune system strong!
Mountain Rescue Nutrients
Certified Precision Nutrition Coach
I have an autoimmune problem so I have been studying the human immune system for 25 years
PS; A new study just out from Israel is showing that the Pfizer vaccine is less effective at preventing a re-infection of COVID-19 delta but it is protecting from severe cases and hospitalization. This could be evidence of the sustained protection by the T and B cells. The study also showed that those with natural immunity have maintained a robust level of protection.
6 Krista Scorr-Dixon, PhD; John Berardi, PhD, CSCS; Brian St. Pierre, MS, RD, CSCS;
Helen Kollias, PhD, CSCS; Camille DePutter “The ESSENTIALS of NUTRITION and Coaching”, Unit 2, Fourth Edition, Precision Nutrition, Inc., 2019
7 “Protection of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection is similar to that of BNT162b2 vaccine protection: A three-month nationwide experience from Israel” https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.04.20.21255670