Facts About Antibodies



  • Antibodies are tiny proteins that make germs vulnerable to attack by white blood cells called phagocytes.
  • Antibodies are produced by white blood cells derived from B lymphocyctes (see lymphocytes).
  • There are thousands of different kinds of B-cell in the blood, each of which produces antibodies against a particular germ.
  • Normally, only a few B-cells carry a particular antibody. But when invading germ is detected, the correct B-cell multiplies rapidly to cause the release of antibodies.
  • Invaders are identified when your body’s immune system recognizes proteins on their surface as foreign. Any foreign protein is called an antigen.
  • Pollen from plants can often cause allergies such as hayfever. Your body’s immune system mistakenly produces antibodies to fight the harmless pollen grains, which causes an allergic reaction.
  • Bacteria, viruses and many other microorganisms have antigens which spur B-cells into action to produce antibodies, as this artist’s impression shows.
  • Your body was armed from birth with antibodies for germs it had never met. This is called innate immunity.
  • If your body comes across a germ it has no antibodies for, it quickly makes some. It then leaves memory cells ready to be activated if the germ invades again. This is called acquired immunity.
  • Acquired immunity means you only suffer once from chickenpox. This is also how vaccination works.
  • Allergies are sensitive reactions that happen in your body when too many antibodies are produced, or when they are produced to attack harmless antigens.
  • Autoimmune diseases are ones in which the body forms antibodies against its own tissue cells.