Evolution of the immune system in humans from infancy to old age

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


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Aging / immunology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Biological Evolution
  • Communicable Diseases / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immune System / growth & development*
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Pregnancy / immunology*