The innate immune system is the rapid response team. It starts its work as soon as foreign invaders are noticed and much of it’s work takes place in the first 12 hours of the immune response
Without it’s crucial work in the beginning stages of infection our systems would be extremely susceptible.
The Initial Stages of the Innate Immune Response
In the initial stages (0-4 hours) of an infection the innate immune system attempts to quickly recognize the invader using germline-encoded receptors.
Generally speaking, the innate immune system relies on recognition of common features found in a large variety of unique pathogens in order plan it’s attacks. It’s actions are simply driven by evaluation of common patterns and the usage of corresponding defense tactics.
The innate immune system doesn’t have a memory
Because of the innate immune systems straightforward approach, it does not make any efforts to store the unique characteristics of the encountered pathogen.
If the invader is simple to recognize, an attack is launched accordingly. And if this attack is successful at destroying or removing the invader from the system, the process can safely end here.
If the invader remains, the innate immune system must activate inflammation to isolate the area and prevent further spreading. All while making further attempts to end the threat as soon as possible.
Why Speed is An Essential Component of Immunity
The reason why it’s crucial for the innate immune system to act fast is the compounding nature of infection.
Speed is innate immunity’s secret weapon
Bacteria, viruses and fungi can spread quickly and it’s the innate immune system’s job to prevent this from happening.
As an example, imagine that you start with only one bacterium which can double every 30 minutes. Initially you only have 1 bacterium, at 30 minutes you would have 2 bacterium, in an hour 4 bacterium and so on. Now if you fast-forward 2 hours, you would be facing a total of only 16 bacterium. This doesn’t seem that bad, does it?
But since each new bacterium cycle is able to produce double the offspring, only 4 hours later (total of 6 hours) you would have a total of 4,096 bacterium.
This may not seem that bad either, but now if you jump 6 more hours ahead (total of 12 hours) you would be looking at a total of 16,777,216 bacterium, And only 6 hours after that (total of 18 hours) you would be faced with a total of 68,719,476,736 bacterium!
Thus, it becomes critical to stop foreign invaders as quickly as possible.
Some Sacrifices Need to be Made
In order to work so fast, the innate immune system must make some sacrifices. More specifically, it often relies on a more broad approach to defense and this can cause unpleasant secondary symptoms such as abundant inflammation.
Nonetheless, it’s actions are necessary in order to quickly stop the invader from spreading through our system.
Inflammation is simply part of it’s approach. It prevents spreading of invaders to nearby tissue, increases blood flow, and sets the stage for the repair process.
This section went over the importance of speed in the immune system’s response to foreign invaders. Here’s a summary of the key points:
- The innate immune response is the first component of the immune system to activate and it’s work is crucial to overall effectiveness
- The innate immune response does not have a memory of previous encounters and works by assessing common characteristics of pathogens
- Infection and bacteria can spread at an exponential rate and it is essential to act as quickly as possible to prevent complications
- Inflammation is a critical component of innate immunity and helps prevent pathogen spreading and growth