June 27, 2013 | Posted in Immune System, Pediatrics

The acquired immune system is also called the adaptive immune system, because it doesn’t work until called into action by the innate immune system, when it adapts or responds to the particular germ or antigen.  The acquired immune system is The Thinker on our immune team, the little sister to The Doer, the innate immune system, which is our  most basic defense against infection.  See Innate immunity.


Certain lymphocytes (B cells) carry memory of having met an antigen ( a germ) and can create antibodies to meet that germ or antigen when meeting it again at a later time. Nature designed the ‘Usual Childhood Diseases’ to occur during childhood when they are basically benign, and give humans immunity of longstanding.  Usual Childhood Diseases refers to measles, mumps, chickenpox, though these are no longer common diseases.  This is a healthy example of acquired immunity.  The acute illness activates both the innate (cellular) and the acquired (humoral) immune systems.  The overall immune system is strengthened, and the acquired immunity often lasts a lifetime.

The development of immunizations also uses the acquired or adaptive immune system, but in a different way.

Immunizations cause the body to produce antibodies in response to a piece of a germ (antigen) which is artificially introduced into the human body, usually by injection, without activating the innate immune system.  Inactivated viruses are used, and parts of a bacteria or bacterial toxin, as the substance that promotes the antibody reaction.  The body must have a vaccine repeatedly in order to learn to make antibodies to the piece of a germ.

There are some difficulties arising from the way immunizations work that makes them in practical terms far from perfect.

  • Vaccines do not teach the body as well as an acute infection does, so the vaccines must be repeated.
  • Repeated use of one side of the immune system — in this case the acquired immune system — creates imbalance by overstimulating antibody production.  The increase in autoimmune diseases and allergies is though to be related to overactive antibody production.
  • Even when used repeatedly, the germ pieces do not reliably cause much reaction in the acquired / adaptive immune system by themselves.  So in order to increase reactivity, aluminum or other substances must be added.  These are called adjuvants. The adjuvant makes the piece of germ or toxin stick better, allowing for more antibody production.  The adjuvant is like glue.  Bacterial parts and bacterial toxins especially need adjuvants to make these vaccines work.  Aluminum is one such adjuvant.  However, aluminum can result in increased autoimmune responses in the person receiving it.  In people who are genetically vulnerable, autoimmune diseases may occur.
  • Thimerosal is a mercury preservative which is a known toxin and yet remains in a few vaccines in wide use today, for example, the injectable flu vaccine recommended for all ages sometimes multiple times per year.
  • There is a concept in immunology called ‘Original Antigenic Sin.’  This applies to our acquired immunity.  It is a fact that the first time the acquired immune system meets an antigen it imprints the antigen precisely and cannot change the imprint.  So repeated vaccines that are slightly different, are not of great value because the immune system has already responded to its original antigenic contact and remembers this.  Consider our repeated flu vaccines, and the number of people who catch the flu in spite of the vaccine.  The lack of effectiveness is explained in part by the Original Antigenic Sin theory in immunology.

The innate immune system and the acquired immune system together are designed to allow the human to walk amidst myriad sources of inflammation and infection safely–most of the time.  We need sound nutrition first to have immune strength.  Secondly, we may learn from nature’s design the inherent balance needed between innate (cellular) immune work and acquired (antibody) immune work.  We would be wise to refrain from excessive immune manipulation (such as excessive vaccines) which overstimulates one side of the immune system (acquired, antibody production), resulting in more chronic disease.   See Immunizations.

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Adaptive Immune System    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptive_immune_system

How Vaccinations Work   http://philipincao.crestonecolorado.com/index_htm_files/How%20Vaccinations%20Work.pdf

CDC Vaccine Information Statements    http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/index.html

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