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How exactly does your body fight the good fight to protect itself? Find out

Cathreen Carver uses easy-to-understand, imaginative narration to explore how the immune system works, and how you could be hurting it.

books Updated: Sep 10, 2017 13:55 IST
Anonna Dutt
Anonna Dutt
Hindustan Times
  • Author: Cathreen Carver
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Sigma
  • Price: Rs 264 (E-version)

Do you know the ins and outs of how your body tackles the thousands of microscopic pathogens that invade it daily? How it wards off the enemy germs and protect you from diseases like influenza, dengue or malaria and chicken pox?

The human body is, in fact, like an “exceedingly well-fortified castle, defended by billions of soldiers” of your immune system present in your skin, nose, lungs and digestive tract. In her book, Immune, Cathreen Carver tells the story of this hidden army.

Through an easy-to-understand, imaginative narration, she explores how the immune system works, and how it is affected by specific elements of unhealthy lifestyles. How it sometimes goes into overdrive, to cause allergies. And how this incredible arsenal accommodates the cute little parasites we call babies.

Through her book, Carver presents the reader with interesting tidbits — like what it is that causes the smoker’s cough. (If you are a smoker or have ever been one, you should know this: smoking disables, and finally kills, the cilia (a microscopic whip-like structure) that are responsible for ejecting bacteria-trapping mucus from the lungs. The cough is the lungs’ way of trying to eject the mucus without the cilia’s help.)

When it comes to pregnancy, the author talks about how the mother initially passes her immune response on to the child — a sort of basic portfolio that the child must develop on through its life.

She also explores how the same defence mechanisms that should treat the baby as a parasite make it possible for the zygote to implant itself deeper in the uterine wall for a successful pregnancy. And what it means to be a rhesus negative mother with a rhesus positive baby growing inside her.

One chapter is dedicated to cancer, and why it is such a challenge to the robust defences of our bodies.

From Egyptian myth to cutting-edge science, it’s a fascinating journey through thousands of years of knowledge, and guesswork, about the inner workings of the human immune system.

First Published: Sep 09, 2017 22:08 IST