Microflora and Host Interactions

The immune response within the GI tract is both innate and adaptive. The innate immune system is a pre-existing system that begins to eliminate invading pathogenic microorganisms immediately upon exposure. Natural barriers of the mucosal epithelium begin this immune response. Rapid induction of an immune response occurs with initial inflammation through phagocytosis. Neutrophils and macrophages engulf bacteria in an effort to get rid of them before insult to the epithelium occurs. Phagocytes also release important chemokines and cytokines that increase the inflammatory response activating the adaptive immune mechanisms when necessary.

The adaptive immune mechanisms are able to differentiate indigenous microflora and mount a response to pathogenic microbes. This process involves cells of the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) resulting in production of IgA. The adaptive branch of the GI immune system is antigen specific allowing a 'memory' of such and responding specifically to re-exposure to offensive bacteria or toxins. It is through this delicate interplay between innate and adaptive immune mechanisms that an adequate immunologic defense response can be maintained while the adaptive immune system is activated in the hope of averting a harmful systemic reaction.

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