Nobody enjoys being sick. The fever, the runny nose, the sore throat, the swollen glands and the hacking cough are all common symptoms that signal the presence of an infection. But almost all these symptoms aren’t caused by the invader. They are caused by the immune system in response to the disease.
The immune system is one of the most powerful and organized systems in the human body. It consists of the skin (yup! your skin is the first line of defense against infection!), the mucus membrane, and finally the leukocytes: T Cells and antibodies.
When a bacteria or a virus enters the bloodstream, the white blood cell identifies it as an invader and calls in the troops for attack. It send out certain antibodies, based on whatever toxin the bacteria or virus produces, to stop the movement of pathogens in the blood stream. After the antibodies have targeted the invaders, the tanks roll in. These huge white blood cells are known as macrophages. They literally eat the invaders and break down the pathogen’s cells walls inside their bodies.
As we grow into adults, our immune systems become more organized and we are able to handle stronger infections as well as stronger infection responses. But as children, our bodies are still developing and are fragile. Our immune systems fight hard so the pathogen can’t cause damage, but when our white blood cells fight TOO hard it can cause serious side effects, particularly in children.
More importantly though, additional studies have been published recently that are more specific about what types of infection response can cause mental disorders, specifically strep throat and OCD.
Streptococcus is a very common bacteria that comes in a variety of infections, the most common being strep throat. From pneumonia, to ear infections, even cavities and rare flesh eating diseases are all caused by streptococcus.
Pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with streptococcus, or PANDAS, has been a condition characterized since the 1990s, but is just now only beginning to be understood. In PANDAS, the antibodies that are meant to target infection instead attack brain cells, causing sudden-onset mental defects.
There are several ways in which the immune system can work against the body. A study published in February has shown that a specific gene can cause inflammatory problems in the brain when the immune system fights infection. This sort of inflammation can lead to personality problems such as schizophrenia and suicidal behavior. Although this is the first study to suggest these kinds of changes in psychology as a result of immune response, this is also a new field of research where scientists and biologists are only beginning to dip their toes in a pool of information.
All this information is further proof that as well develop more powerful artificial antibiotics and antibacterial chemicals, the more we have to artificially develop our own bodies. Many doctors predict huge advancements in medicine within the next 25 years, such as gene therapy and effectively powerful drugs for psychosis. As this new trend in medicine advances, it will be interestingly intriguing to see how the response to this new research trends as well.
*Editor’s Note: I apologize for the lack of posts towards the end of the year. I seriously needed time off from school and work to enjoy my holiday as well as to spend time with family and friends. Although this blog was originally an assignment for school, I still enjoy researching interesting health topics and blogging about them on here. I’ll try to do a post every 10 days, but because this blog is no longer a priority I have to focus on my other academic studies before I can find time to blog. But I will continue searching for ways to improving this blog and I believe 2012 will have many great things in store!