Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biology Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for biology researchers, academics, and students. It's 100% free, no registration required.

How does your body know when it is infected with a virus or bacteria so it can invoke a fever or ramp up the immune system?

share|improve this question
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

During infection certain macromolecules present in the pathogens (pathogen associated molecular patterns) such as lipopolysaccharide launch the innate immune response, through toll like receptors. This leads to production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and also other inflammatory mediators like prostaglandins, thereby causing inflammation and fever.

share|improve this answer
add comment

An opinion by non-technical observer.

If you know the function of a hive, you know that bees communicate with each other, touching and rubbing chemical information. In a few minutes the information reaches the center of the hive and returns to individuals which are caring of it. It is widely accepted that a hive is a unique individual, composed of thousands of insects each with its own function.

I believe that we can make the observation reverse. The man (and animals) are agglomerations of cells that pass chemically information to each other. Information reaches the central system, which responds by activating the necessary functions.

In case of infection, viral or bacterial, blood flow to the affected place very quickly, scrolling faster and thus raising the temperature. Similarly in the blood activates the necessary antibodies, which communicate with each other chemically referring where necessary. Pile up in the affected areas, resulting in swelling.

Other functions, such as sweating, vomiting or pus, are ways to excrete toxins (such should not be blocked). If we imagine the human body as a great hive where each cell is a member that transmits information and responds to stimulation of central system, acting in cooperation, the operation according to me is very clear.

How do the bees know that they are dying, if not passing to collecting companions honey too thick? Sorry for non-technical opinion, if not useful delete it.

share|improve this answer
    
Very interesting! –  user1897 Apr 19 '13 at 7:01
    
Thinking of a body of cells as a hive of bees (i.e. many small organisms communicating on a low level) is a nice analogy, but the details are a little sketchy - the signals that are passed around aren't antibodies, it's not just blood flow activating things, and things don't have to pass through a central system. (I don't think bee communication really has a central system either - all the communication theories I've seen have them just communicating to whatever others are near enough to notice.) –  Jefromi May 3 '13 at 5:12
    
Yes Jefromi. But how a cell, that is locked in its own tissue location, and become infected, can communicate to the others, untill, cell by cell, the information reachs the antibodies? It's just an analogy, not an equality. –  violadaprile May 3 '13 at 11:58
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.