Personal hygiene is a very important practice to keep us healthy. Remember what mama used to say (and what you find yourself saying to your little ones now!)… wash your hands and gurgle, clean your room and do the laundry, cook raw foods and boil water, yada yada yada! These days, we are even taught to boost our natural immune system through balanced diet, adequate exercise, and physically and mentally stress-free lifestyle.
But despite all these efforts, we come in contact with an abundance of disease-causing germs every day. Often times they are hard to see, perception- and probability-wise, and therefore, they are highly elusive. They are quite sneaky, entering our system without our notice and remaining latent, waiting for the best chance to strike most effectively. In many cases they are unstoppable, multiplying within an individual and over population faster than we can find working remedies. And even when we think we have found a cure, they continue to mutate and present themselves differently to escape complete eradication.
… Hey, do these characters of germs not remind you of another set of pathogens, possibly unique to our times? We even use immunology terms to describe their effects on us – for example, in my mother tongue we have expressions such as “I had no immunity to the images shown… it made me sick to my stomach” and “I am allergic to his thoughts… I get itches hearing them.” I understand there is one in English, too, like “the story has gone viral.”
It is said that historically, the leading cause of death in humans has been infectious diseases. And from the looks of it, maybe it will continue to be. But surely, there must be something we can do, other than improving sanitation and elevating physical barriers, which can only go so far in protecting us?
Maybe immunology has potential answers here as well: acquired immunity.
Maybe we can be vaccinated with attenuated and detoxified pathogenic agents – records of past attacks presented in a controlled and coated manner – to develop protective functionalities without inducing the attacks themselves.
Maybe we can look into our memory – the survivors and successful overcomers of attacks – to plan defense against and remedy for subsequent attacks.
Maybe we can diversify in the capacity to react – involve those of differing backgrounds and experience from all over – to better our odds at producing antibodies and achieving proper containment.
Maybe it comes down to a matter of personal hygiene.
But maybe sustaining it will contribute in solving public health matters.
And maybe a comprehensive and concerted effort by our acquired immunity will allow us to get through the infectious diseases of our times.
Maybe just like our immune system, we have the ability to learn from our past and adapt, to bring about a better future.
However, let us be careful. Immunology has one more lesson to teach us – if we become too self-protective, we may cause autoimmune diseases and turn on ourselves…