Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

How snakes fight infection quickly

Image of a rat snake via Wikimedia Commons

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day today, I thought we’d talk about snakes today.

Vertebrates defend themselves from infections with the help of the adaptive and innate immune systems. The first responder to an infection is typically the innate immune system, which is not specific to a particular pathogen. This system helps to prevent the infection from spreading and uses various toxins to kill pathogens. The adaptive immune response, on the other hand, uses specialized cells called lymphocytes to recognize specific pathogens. This is the immune system that remembers pathogens like the flu, covid, etc and helps the body to fight off the infection more quickly the next time it is encountered. Vaccinations also help teach the adaptive immune system which pathogens to watch out for.

What is unique about snakes is that they mainly utilize their innate system. This allows them to fight infections quickly as it does not rely on the need to recognize specific pathogens prior to mounting a defense response.


EPSCoR/IDEA Foundation

Categories: Extreme Animals, Illnesses and Injuries, Nature's Solutions

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