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  5. Active & Passive Immunity: Sources, Benefits & Differences

Did you know your body has a multi-layered immune system to fight off disease causing agents and ensure its smooth functioning? Innate immunity, your first-line of defense, consists of barriers, including your skin, mucous membranes, proteins, special cells, etc. So, what happens if this innate immune system fails?

“Your body activates its subsequent defense mechanism called ‘adaptive immunity’ (specific immune system). It comes in the form of active or passive immunity to defend your body against pathogens when your innate immunity fails,” says Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix.

In this article, we help you understand the significance of active and passive immunity in your body and how they help you fight off infections.

What Is Active Immunity And Passive Immunity?

1. Active immunity

It is the immune response of antibodies developed in your body when it gets exposed to a specific disease-causing organism. [1]

2. Passive immunity

It is an induced immune response in your body caused by the specific antibodies, which you receive from another person. [2]

Types Of Active And Passive Immunities With Examples

1. Natural Active Immunity

It is naturally developed in your body when a specific pathogen infects your body.

Eg: When you contract diseases like influenza or chickenpox, your body produces antibodies that have the potential to fight against that particular virus.

2. Artificial Active Immunity

It is developed in your body by injecting inactivated pathogens through vaccination.

Eg: When you get vaccinated with an attenuated pathogen such as the polio virus, your body develops antibodies against the virus. These antibodies prevent you from developing the disease in the future.

3. Natural Passive Immunity

It is the passive immunity you receive naturally for certain diseases, even before your body gets exposed to the pathogen.

Eg: The antibodies that a newborn receives from the mother through the placenta or breast milk.

4. Artificial Passive Immunity

It is acquired by injecting specific antibodies if the recipient's body fails to develop active immunity to that particular pathogen.

Eg: To fight coronavirus, the antibodies developed in the body of a recovered donor can be transfused in the form of serum or plasma into the blood of an infected person.

How Does Active Immunity Work?

The B-type white blood cells in your blood produce antibodies (y-shaped proteins) when the disease-causing antigens invade your body. These antibodies neutralize or destroy the antigens by binding to them.

While the antibodies developed in your body are disease-specific, the B-cells and T-cells create memory cells [3] of the respective antibodies for each disease you contract for the first time. When the pathogen re-attacks your body later, these memory cells recognize the disease agent and your body starts producing respective antibodies rapidly. Thus, the immune response of your body is more robust and quicker when you develop active immunity.

b-cells and t-cells of immune system

“Passive immunity does not form memory cells and the infused antibodies last for a shorter period (few weeks to few months). However, the response time is much quicker for passive immunity,” says Dr. Zeel.

Vedix Tip: Taking Triphala herb every day helps you strengthen your active immunity. Triphala is proven to be an effective immune stimulator of cytotoxic T-cells and natural killer cells. [4]

How Does Active Immunity Benefit You?

1. As the memory immune cells formed for a particular antigen last longer, active immunity protects you from that particular disease for a long time.

2. Immunity for a particular pathogen can be reactivated easily by revaccination or on the reoccurrence of the disease.

3. Active immunization through vaccination may cost less when compared to passive immunization techniques.

How Long Does Active Immunity Last?

After the first exposure of your body to the disease-causing pathogen, it may take a few days or weeks for your body to develop active immunity. However, that can last for decades or sometimes for your entire lifetime.

In general, it takes 2 weeks for an individual to develop active immunity against SARS-COV-2. However, recent studies found that in more than 90% of both asymptomatic and symptomatic corona infected individuals, the antibody levels drop within a few months of recovery.

What Are The Differences Between Active And Passive Immunity?

Active Immunity

Passive Immunity

Antibodies or lymphocytes are produced by anindividual’s own immune system.

Antibodies or lymphocytes are produced by the donor’s immune system and transferred to the recipient.

It involves the functionalities of the following types of white blood cells:

  • Cytotoxic T cells
  • Helper T cells
  • Suppressor T cells
  • Memory T cells
  • Plasma cells
  • Memory B cells
  • Dendritic cells
  • macrophages

As ready-made antibodies are introduced into the recipient, no immune cells are involved.

Long-lasting memory cells are formed.

No formation of memory cells.

Secondary response is much stronger and faster when the same pathogen re-attacks.

Secondary response does not exist.

Subsequent doses of antigen contraction boosts the production of antibodies.

 

Immune elimination makes the subsequent doses less effective.

Artificial active immunization through vaccination is not suitable for immune-deficient or immuno-compromised individuals.

 

It is very useful for those who are immune-deficient or immuno-compromised.

Highly effective for prophylaxis of diseases.

 

Artificial passive immunity is an effective post-exposure remedy.

Does not have side effects generally.

 

Exposure to antisera [5] can cause serum sickness.

The Last Word

Developing and strengthening your immunity is a continuous process. Keeping your doshas in balance with the help of a wholesome diet and healthy lifestyle has significant control in enhancing your innate as well as adaptive immunity systems in the long run. Immunity boosting Ayurvedic herbs can also be your go-to solution while balancing your elevated doshas levels.

At Vedix, we evaluate your doshas and customize Ayurvedic immune booster capsules for your unique body needs.

Know Your Dosha Now