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The Role of Humoral Immunity in Human Health: How Does Infection Susceptibility Relate to Autoimmune Susceptibility?

2012-14 Seed Grant

Antibodies are essential for resistance against infectious diseases such as malaria and influenza. Yet antibodies can also cause debilitating autoimmunity when they attack host tissue and/or accrue at such high densities that they damage organs. Despite the importance of these contrasting roles of antibody-mediated (humoral) immunity to human health, the overall relationship between risk of autoimmunity and resistance to infection remains unknown. Recent work on wild animals suggests that hosts actually experience a trade-off between autoimmune and infection susceptibilities. Might such a trade-off apply in people? The U.S. military has accrued a repository of serum samples that, combined with medical records of the serum donors, presents an opportunity to quantify the combined impacts of humoral immunity on human health. Using this resource will enable the pairing of an epidemiological analysis of infectious disease incidence in autoimmune individuals with a laboratory analysis of the strength of their antibody responses to infectious agents. In sum, the research project will use this longitudinal serum bank and database to test the idea that autoimmune susceptibility is associated with enhanced resistance to infectious disease.


Principal Investigator

Andrea Graham

Andrea Graham, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Faculty person