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Selecting Disease Fighters

The body cannot know in advance what a pathogen will look like and how to fight it, so it creates millions and millions of different lymphocytes that recognize random antigens. When, by chance, a B or T lymphocyte recognizes an antigen being displayed by an antigen presenting cell, the lymphocyte divides and produces many offspring that can also identify and attack this antigen. The way the immune system expands cells that by chance can attack an invading microbe is called clonal selection.

Some researchers believe that while some B and T lymphocytes recognize a pathogen and begin to mature and fight an infection, others stick around in the bloodstream for months or even years in a primed condition. Such memory cells may be the basis for the immunity noted by the ancient Chinese and by Thucydides. Other immunologists believe instead that trace amounts of a pathogen persist in the body, and their continued presence keeps the immune response strong over time.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Hydrazones to IncompatibilityImmunology - History Of Immunology, Friend Or Foe?, Selecting Disease Fighters, Advances In Immunology—monoclonal Antibody Technology