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Defending Against Microbes

Author(s): Nancy Moreno, PhD, Barbara Tharp, MS, Deanne B. Erdmann, MS, Sonia Rahmati Clayton, PhD, and James P. Denk, MA

Let’s Talk About It

It is important for students to know about vaccines, man-made protections against disease that use dead or weakened microbes to activate the body’s natural immune response. As a class, discuss what might happen to a person whose immune system is weakened or destroyed. Lead students to understand that this individual would have little or no ability to fight off an invasion and infection from microbes. For example, HIV weakens the body’s immune response to foreign invaders. Patients with HIV usually die from complications due to infection from other microbes, and not from the HIV disease itself.

Sometimes, the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues because it no longer recognizes them. This type of response is called an autoimmune disorder.

And occasionally, the body’s immune system overreacts to harmless foreign substances, such as tree pollen, producing a condition known as allergies. Common allergic reactions to foreign microbes include swollen, itchy and watery eyes, and sinus pressure. 

Funded by the following grant(s)

Science Education Partnership Award, NIH

Science Education Partnership Award, NIH

Grant Number: 5R25RR018605