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. 2015 Dec 22;282(1821):20143085.
doi: 10.1098/rspb.2014.3085.

Evolution of the Immune System in Humans From Infancy to Old Age

Free PMC article

Evolution of the Immune System in Humans From Infancy to Old Age

A Katharina Simon et al. Proc Biol Sci. .
Free PMC article


This article reviews the development of the immune response through neonatal, infant and adult life, including pregnancy, ending with the decline in old age. A picture emerges of a child born with an immature, innate and adaptive immune system, which matures and acquires memory as he or she grows. It then goes into decline in old age. These changes are considered alongside the risks of different types of infection, autoimmune disease and malignancy.

Keywords: adaptive immunity; infections; innate immunity.


Figure 1.
Figure 1.
(a) The seven ages of woman. (b) Schematic graph of excess deaths from seasonal or pandemic influenza over the lifetime of an individual represented as number of deaths per 1000 persons (adapted from [2]). Note that while pregnancy increases the risk of severe influenza, in severe pandemics such as 1918/1919 there were also excess deaths in previously healthy young adults who were not pregnant. (c) Schematic graph of the different arms of the immune response to influenza over the lifetime of an individual.

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