What Is Adaptive Immunity? - Definition and Types

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  • 0:05 The Two Parts of the…
  • 0:39 The Adaptive Immune System
  • 1:52 Active and Passive Immunity
  • 4:17 Natural and Artificial…
  • 5:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will help you distinguish between several different types of immunity. This includes passive immunity, active immunity, naturally acquired immunity and artificially acquired immunity.

The Two Parts of the Immune System

Every team needs a back-up plan. If the first plan fails to do the job entirely or just doesn't manage to do a good enough job, well, there needs to be something else to back it up. In the case of your body, your primary defense system involves components of the innate immune system, such as your skin, cells like neutrophils and so forth. However, if the innate immune system fails or needs some extra help, then the second part of the immune system, the adaptive immune system, kicks in to high gear.

The Adaptive Immune System

The adaptive immune system is exactly that - it's adaptive, meaning it can adapt to a specific threat, or antigen. For example, if the opposing team brings in a substitute, the entire team can adapt to that new substitute's unique threat. However, the adaptive immune system takes time to develop; there's a lag of sorts, meaning the trainer of the team needs to coach his players on how to adapt to an antigen, or the recognizable and visible aspect of a threat, like a bacterium's surface receptors. The good thing is once the players are trained well enough, they develop a good memory with respect to that threat.

This means that whenever they encounter that substitute, or specific antigen or threat, again, they will know exactly what to do with it and will not have to waste time training for it. Basically, the lag is only really significant the first time around, not as much thereafter. All of this is in contrast to the innate immune system, which suffers no lag, has no memory and isn't trained to respond to a specific threat; it goes after everything that moves.

Active and Passive Immunity

Your team, the adaptive immune system, can become really good at what it does in one of two major ways. Recall, that this team's role is to be coached to recognize an opponent, or a certain tactic used by that player or pathogen, train for that situation, remember that situation if it ever comes up again and act to neutralize that unique scenario so they can win. The team's coach can go about doing this by recruiting naturally talented players. You know the kind. They basically don't have to train; they're that good. It's just something they're born with.

This type of immunity is called passive immunity, which is a type of short-term immunity that occurs via the transfer of antibodies to an individual devoid of them. The antibodies are proteins that are like the strategic plays, which are used to neutralize a player, or pathogen. If you get these antibodies from your mother, naturally, or from an injection, artificially, then your body didn't really train to get them. It was just given to you. In the case of the natural route, you were born with it and your body, therefore, intrinsically knew the plays it had to come up with in order to neutralize a threat.

However, the downside is that nothing comes easy in life and this form of immunity, or training, is lost very quickly. To become really good at something, you, your body, needs to undergo lots and lots of training, sometimes referred to as active immunity, which is a type of long-term immunity gained by infection or vaccination. Basically, here the trainer makes you sweat, literally. If you ever got infected by something you were never exposed to before, you probably got a fever and some sweats.

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