Perpetuating false dogma about the immune system

“Immunologists think they have a solid theoretical explanation of immunity. They claim that natural immunity is the result of immunologic memory to previously encountered pathogens. Equating immunity with immunologic memory is the most important aspect of immunologic dogma. Without this pillar, immunology would have no theory-based grounds for imposing vaccination as a measure of long-term disease prevention.

… What exactly is immunologic memory? The textbook defines immunologic memory as the ability of the immune system to generate faster and more robust antibody production to a previously injected antigen—a biomolecule or a particle of non-self origin—after this antigen is encountered again. Since immunologists typically avoid working with pathogens, the concept of immunologic memory was established without testing it on a real bacteria or viruses, but only on isolated pathogens.

Immunologists have figured out that purified protein antigens do not have an ability to induce antibody production in humans or animals (the recipients) on their own. To induce antibody production, a protein antigen needs to be mixed with an adjuvant—a cytotoxic substance, like an aluminum salt or alum—before being injected into the recipients.

To generate a boost in antibody production, the recipients need to receive a second injection of the same protein antigen, but this time the inclusion of the adjuvant is optional. The primary response to protein antigens is slow, weak, and adjuvant-dependent, whereas the secondary or tertiary responses (boosters) are faster, greater in magnitude, and adjuvant-independent. This different between the primary and secondary immune responses forms the concept of immunologic memory.

One would hope that if the immune system can respond faster the second time around, then maybe this faster immune response forms the basis of life-long immunity. However, despite being so attractively logical, this idea turned out to be erroneous upon further investigation. Once immunologists started testing non-protein antigens for induction of immunologic memory, such as polysaccharides or complex particles with repetitive structures, it turned out that these antigens behave entirely differently. They do not elicit a memory response—this is, faster or higher levels of antibody production—when when injected multiple times.

… The dogma that equates natural immunity with immunologic memory persists in immunology despite the fact that it is not applicable to real pathogens, and few immunologists warn the rest of the field about this confusion. Meanwhile, the rest of the field apparently ignores those warnings. The number one priority of modern immunologic research has become precisely to perpetuate this false dogma, as it gives rationale to the modern adjuvant-dependent strategy in vaccine design and ensures the monopoly of immunologic paradigms in public health policies.”

— Dr. Tetyana Obukhanych, immunologist


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