The Pandemic's Biggest Mystery Is Our Own Immune System

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Amid all the fighting in your airways, messenger cells grab small fragments of virus and carry these to the lymph nodes, where highly specialized white blood cellsT-cellsare waiting. The T-cells are selective and preprogrammed defenders. Each is built a little differently, and comes ready-made to attack just a few of the zillion pathogens that could possibly exist. For any new virus, you probably have a T-cell somewhere that could theoretically fight it. Your body just has to find and mobilize that cell. Picture the lymph nodes as bars full of grizzled T-cell mercenaries, each of which has just one type of target they’re prepared to fight. The messenger cell bursts in with a grainy photo, showing it to each mercenary in turn, asking: Is this your guy? When a match is found, the relevant merc arms up and clones itself into an entire battalion, which marches off to the airways.

The Pandemic’s Biggest Mystery Is Our Own Immune System, Ed Yong in The Atlantic