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Discussion Evolution and immunology of infectious diseases: what’s new?

By An E-debate, Jean-baptiste André A, Sunetra Gupta B, Steven Frank C and Michel Tibayrenc D


“immunology and evolution of infectious diseases ” (Frank, 2002), I find that many basic concepts of immunology (nature of antigens, molecular structure of antibodies, mechanisms of humoral and cellular immunity) were already known when I was a medical student in the 1970s. Where do you think the main progresses have been done in this field since that time? Response from Steven Frank I often remind my students that the basic principles of genetics and evolution were understood before the description of DNA as the hereditary material in 1953. In the same way, the principles of immune specificity and memory were understood many years ago. So, it is interesting to take a step back and ask how the recent advances in immunology have changed our fundamental understanding of the host-parasite interaction. Most immunologists would perhaps emphasize the advances in molecular understanding of the immune response. Those molecular details are indeed crucial, but to me the wonderful molecular work brings us just to the threshold of a new and exciting phase in the history of the subject. We are almost ready to understand what happens during an infection and how parasites evolve to escape host immunity. Mims emphasized that “every infection is a race”. Parasites divide rapidly and build up in numbers. The host, in response, builds up its populations of immune cells to fight the infection. The outcome turns on numbers and rates. If the host builds its numbers of immune cells fast enough, th

Year: 2011
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