There is an old saying that in order to win the big battle, victory in small skirmishes is key. Similar is the case for antibodies. They are the defence of your body, and they can be more efficient than the greatest militaries in the world. The tactics and strategies applied by the antibodies have inspired several warriors. Let us dive deeper into understanding more about these internal fighters and understand more about the differences between active vs passive immunity.
To keep our body safe from any external foreign threat like viruses, bacteria etc., called an antigen, our body creates blood proteins that are known as antibodies. The body’s immunity is determined by the body’s ability to ward off infections and diseases caused by the antigens. While finding the difference between Active vs Passive immunity we have found that, every time an antigen enters the human body, specific antibodies are created to fight off the threat. It is a battle more glorious than the Avengers fighting against intergalactic threats or the Jedi’s fight against the dark side.
The body reacts specifically to the type of disease it is resisting and creates specific antibodies. It means that different types of proteins are produced by the body to counter different diseases. Antibodies that have resulted from a specific disease are not effective against any other type of disease.
The human body has two different types of immunity, namely, active immunity and passive immunity.
What are the prominent differences between active vs passive immunity?
The process of acquiring immunity makes up for the prime difference between active vs passive immunity.
Active Immunity: Active immunity involves the creation of antibodies in small amounts as a response to the antigens entering the organism’s body. These antibodies then help to activate the other immune cells to help fight against certain pathogens. As the body becomes fluent in countering these antigens in smaller amounts, any further disease or infection from the same antigen can be easily stopped.
In simple words, active immunity involves the human body releasing smaller quantities of antibodies to activate the other immune cells in the body to certain pathogens. It helps the body ward off any similar threat with the help of the long-lasting immune cell already armed to fight off foreign infections. It is referred to as adaptive immunity since the body learns to adapt to the antigen and how to fight it off.
Just as practice tests do not offer your final grades, antigens in smaller quantities cannot cause any infection or diseases. However, while researching about Active vs Passive immunity we have found that, a larger concentration of antigens can prove disastrous, and therefore the body should be fluent in how to defend itself from specific antigens to keep you safe and healthy.
Passive Immunity: In the case of passive immunity, the specific antigens are passed from one body to another.
The example can be seen with newborn babies who cannot produce their own antibodies to counter infections and diseases. In these cases, the mother’s milk provides the child with all the antibodies they require to stay safe, and the antibodies are passed from the mother’s body to the child’s.
When looking at active vs passive immunity, passive immunity is generally provided to children and adults who have a weak immune system.
In passive immunity, antigens in high concentration are extracted from the donor and then injected into the patient. Passive immunity comes in two forms; artificial and natural. Natural passive immunity is seen when the mother’s milk passes on her antibodies to her child while feeding.
There are several ways of acquiring immunity. You can gain lifelong immunity if you have suffered from measles or chickenpox since your body learns to fight off the antigens after being infected for the first time. Vaccines are another powerful form of gaining immunity. Vaccines and antibodies created from first-time illnesses are an example of active immunity.
When a person has a weak immune system, the antibodies might not function as expected, and therefore routine vaccines are required to protect the person from a disease. With the antibody inside the body, the body becomes equipped to fight any disease causing pathogen.
In newborn babies, passive immunity is acquired through the passing of the mother’s antibodies through the placenta. Passive immunity can even be passed through blood containing antibodies. First introduced in the 60s in the US, immune globulin, when induced in the blood, can provide immediate protection from disease. For example, tourists visiting a hepatitis prone region often give a passive immunization of hepatitis. The rabies shot is also a passive immunizer given to patients after being bit by any wild animal.
In all of these cases, the shot provides immediate protection from the disease, and the antibodies start working immediately. When looking at active vs passive immunity, this becomes a major advantage over active immunity as active immunity can take several weeks or even months to develop.
Natural passive immunity: During the third trimester of the pregnancy, the unborn child acquires passive immunity via the placenta. The placenta allows the pathogen fighting white cells to reach the foetus immunizing them from certain diseases.
Colostrum is another great substance for infants. They receive the colostrum before the period the mother starts to produce breast milk. The colostrum is rich in antibodies and helps provide the infant with all the necessary protections. Breast milk is also rich in antibodies, though not as rich as in the colostrum. This type of protection is extremely short and can protect the child for up to six months.
Artificial passive immunity: These are short term but immediate immunizations. These shots are rich in antibodies such as gamma globulin which are administered during an outbreak or exposure to toxicity like tetanus.
Examples of artificial passive immunity include:
When the human body is exposed to any disease, the body actively fights it by introducing antibodies in the bloodstream, resulting in the development of active immunity. This type of immunity lasts for almost the entire lifespan of a person and is also known as natural active immunity since, in this case, the individual comes in direct contact with the disease.
As soon as the pathogen is able to go deeper under the protective barrier of the skin, they start messing with the immune system. In response, the body produces antibodies from the B cells in an effort to fight the infection. This type of immunity can take a long time to develop, but it can essentially last a lifetime once it is generated.
When comparing active vs passive immunity, both of them have quite different modes of development. In the case of active immunity, when a virus or bacteria enters the body and reproduces to affect nearby cells, the immune cells are triggered into action. These immune cells then engulf the foreign bodies. This is when the antibodies are created with specific information on how to ward off similar attacks in the future.
Infants are provided with all the antibodies they need from their mother’s milk. Vaccines are also given till a specific age to protect against major diseases.
Passive immunity is introduced to the body with the help of external sources like vaccines, breast milk etc., which can provide immediate protection, however, not indefinitely. Active immunity is developed in response to disease and, therefore, can last a lifetime once developed. Therefore, active immunity takes a longer time to develop in the human body.
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