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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What are neutrophils?

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    My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    Neutrophils are the most abundant kind of white blood cells.

    Their job is to carry out innate immunity - that means that they can dispose of, in particular, bacteria in a general way. The contrast here is with another kind of white blood cell (lymphocytes) which are responsible for specific immunity. Lymphocytes come in two classes. B lymphocytes make specific antibodies - a B lymphocyte which makes an antibody which can help to get rid of one kind of bacteria will not be able to help in getting rid of other kinds of bacteria. 

    The other class of lymphocytes are T lymphocytes (“T cells”). Some T cells (“cytotoxic T cells”) kill specific viruses - again this is specific - a cytotoxic T cell which can kill flu virus can not kill other viruses. Other T cells (“helper T cells”) help both B and T cells to do their jobs in a specific way.

    This is how immunisation works - immunisation against (eg) measles virus increases the number of lymphocytes which can get rid of that virus but not of the lymphocytes which can get rid of other viruses.

    Neutrophils do innate immunity in two ways. They can take up (phagocytose) bacteria and then kill them. They can also, when attracted to a site of bacterial infection, release “granules” which contain many chemicals which kill the bacteria. They do this in a general way - what kind of bacterium does not matter.

    To the person who asked this question: I hope that this helps - if you have more questions, please get back to me.

    To the health professional members of Healthshare: yes, I know that I have skipped over a lot of technical detail - any comments/corrections will be fine.

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