How extensive is immune memory?

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Peter Gunn

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How extensive is immune memory?
« on: 19/01/2011 23:30:03 »
Peter Gunn asked the Naked Scientists:
I recently had a seasonal flu jab, that had vaccination for 3 different strains of 'flu.

I was wondering how many strains our body can remember?

For example, if I get 100 flu vaccinations (each strain a variation of flu) will my body remember them all? Or what about 300? Or, for the sake of argument, 1000 vaccinations?

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 19/01/2011 23:30:03 by _system »


Offline CliffordK

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How extensive is immune memory?
« Reply #1 on: 20/01/2011 00:20:01 »
The immune system should be able to recognise thousands, perhaps millions of foreign antigens, although I don't know a specific number.

The immune response to many viruses/vaccines begins to wane after a decade or so (which is why you often need booster shots for some vaccines), although I don't know if there is ever complete "amnesia". 

So...  while you may get 3 deactivated flu viruses a year for 50 years (150 unique viruses, and many more potential antigens), the body may really only have immediate access to the most recent decade (30 viruses and however many antigens are recognised on them).

It may only take a couple of cells to keep the virus template alive.

AIDS research should help with understanding T-Cell response, and the amnesia effect of loosing significant numbers of T-Cells.