Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The mystery of the immune system

I am currently unwell. As my birthday is in November I am usually unwell on the day so it looks like this year will be no exception. However, one thing about having a b*ggered immune system is that coughs and colds etc don't seem the same anymore! It has taken me a while to work this out but the normal symptoms that we get with a cold are really due to the immune system doing its job of fighting off the virus. In my case my immune system doesn't really do this properly as I have to take medication to suppress it; so I don't really get the sore throat and runny nose bits of a cold. You may think that is great but at least those symptoms tell you there is something wrong! In my case I wake up and feel like I have been beaten up by a gang of thugs and can't work out why! Usually a few days rest does the trick but I have to notice that something is wrong and not do what I did last week and put it all down to my hormones and the weather. I am learning...

I find it quite weird to have a illness that no one really understands. In fact, the mysteries of the immune system are slowly being unravelled only to uncover more things that they don't understand; a bit like exploring deep space and coming across a black hole. No one can really explain why one day, out of the blue, my body decided to take up arms against itself and begin to attack my healthy cells. Treatments are being developed all the time and in a notorious case when healthy volunteers were injected with a new medication being trialed for rheumatoid arthritis they developed a severe and life threatening auto-immune response in a matter on minutes suggesting that the balance between an ordered and disordered immune system is incredibly delicate. Also of interest is that the more aggressive flu viruses that are likely to cause pandemics such as avian flu, are thought to over stimulate the immune system and produce a severe auto-immune response in healthy people. Strangely, if there were an outbreak I might fare better than someone with a better immune system!

For this reason I have been particularly interested in watching the TV series 'Survivors' on the BBC. In the story a worldwide flu pandemic kills 90% of the population and the story is of the 10% that survived. I remember watching the original in the 1970s and being particularly taken with the story and disappointed that it was never shown again. However I enjoyed the first episode of the remake and look forward to episode 2 tonight.

1 comment:

Michael House said...

As i was reading down this post, i was going to ask if you are watching Survivors, then that appeared at the end! It is excellent isnt it? Hope you are now feeling beter, it must be strange not to have the usual signs of a viral attack.