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Immunity is the ability of the body to defend itself from 'foreign bodies'. This means rejecting infections, clearing up dust which gets in the lungs, and killing cancer cells. Vaccination builds on the natural immune system to make a person resist certain diseases.
People can be immunised from some diseases by having a vaccination (injection of some dead or weakened virus, or bacteria that causes the disease). By doing so, the body learns how the virus/bacteria harms the body, and will react more quickly to fight the virus/bacteria when it comes in contact with the virus/bacteria again. When your body has defended itself against the virus/bacteria it will trap the certain virus/bacteria in a "net" so when the virus/bacteria comes back it will be easier to trap those viruses/bacteria as well.
History of immunology
The earliest known mention of immunity was during the plague of Athens in 430 BC. Thucydides noted that people who had recovered from a previous bout of the disease could nurse the sick without contracting the illness a second time.
This and other observations of acquired immunity was later exploited by Louis Pasteur in his development of vaccination and his proposed germ theory of disease. Pasteur's theory was in direct opposition to contemporary theories of disease, such as the miasma theory.
It was not until Robert Koch's 1891 proofs, for which he was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1905, that microorganisms were confirmed as the cause of infectious disease. Viruses were confirmed as human pathogens in 1901, with the discovery of the yellow fever virus by Walter Reed.
Particularly important was the work of Paul Ehrlich, who proposed the side-chain theory to explain the specificity of the antigen-antibody reaction; his contributions to the understanding of humoral immunity were recognized by the award of a Nobel Prize in 1908, which was jointly awarded to the founder of cellular immunology, Elie Mechnikov.
- Retief FP, Cilliers L (January 1998). "The epidemic of Athens, 430-426 BC". South African Medical Journal 88 (1): 50–3. .
- Ostoya P (1954). "Maupertuis et la biologie". Revue d'histoire des sciences et de leurs applications 7 (1): 60–78. . http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/rhs_0048-7996_1954_num_7_1_3379.
- Plotkin SA (April 2005). "Vaccines: past, present and future". Nature Medicine 11 (4 Suppl): S5–11. . .
- The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1905 Nobelprize.org Accessed 8 January 2007.
- Major Walter Reed, Medical Corps, U.S. Army Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Accessed 8 January 2007.
- Metchnikoff, Elie; Translated by F.G. Binnie. (1905) (Full Text Version: Google Books). Immunity in Infective Diseases. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0548-64719-4. http://books.google.com/?id=ywKp9YhK5t0C&printsec=titlepage&vq=Ehrlich&dq=history+of+humoral+immunity.
- The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1908 Nobelprize.org Accessed 8 January 2007