Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sweating the small stuff

I've written before about my Epidemiology professor. He's not the best lecturer, but I wasn't too frustrated with him.

Until today, when we were discussing different types of immunity. There are two main types, natural and acquired. Natural immunity is "passive" and short-lived, usually lasting for less than six months. The antibodies in breastmilk and the placenta that are passed from mother to offspring offer natural immunity. Acquired immunity comes from the body's' response to pathogens. Chicken pox immunity is one example. Additionally, active immunity can arise from incoluation - in this case, the exposure is intentional and therapuetic. Acquired immunity is long-term.

I wasn't arguing any of this. I wanted to know whether inheriting a relatively stronger immune system was passive or acquired immunity - you get it from your parents, but it's long-term. Like genetic resistance to malaria, I said. Epi Prof is from Nigeria and talks about native African's resistance to malaria pretty frequently. He also talks about his son, who has sickle-cell anemia. Since the two are related, I thought, surely he'll know what I'm talking about.

He looked at me like I was nuts. He said that malarial resistance is entirely due to environmental factors, like developing "thick skin" so mosquito bites couldn't penetrate. I knew that wasn't the whole story, but he wouldn't let me get a word in edgewise. It was so frustrating to be completely shut down like that. But then, he's from Nigeria; how could I possibly know more about malaria?

Well, I was right, not that any of this is particularly important (just frustrating as hell). Here, here, and here are sources backing me up.

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