Immunology is the medical speciality dealing with diseases of the immune system, including those that cause Immunosuppression, autoimmune diseases, and allergies. Allison Cameron is a specialist in immunology. A specialist in the field is an Immunologist.
Immunology studies the physiology of the proper function of the immune system both in healthy patients and diseased patients. It also studies malfunctions of the immune system that both result in the immune system attacking healthy cells, and not attacking diseased cells.
The study of immunology is almost as old as the study of medicine and even ancient physicians described the parts of the anatomy that were responsible for fighting disease, such as the lymph nodes, bone marrow, thymus gland, spleen, tonsils and liver. However, most of the immune system works at the cellular level and was not well understood until the 20th century.
The first mention in literature about the function of an immune system is from Thucydide's description of the plague of Athens in the 5th century B.C. He noted that persons who had survived the plague were no longer at risk to contract it.
Hoewver, despite the development of vaccination in the 18th century, immunology did not become a field of scientific study until the 19th century.
There are seven general fields of study within immunology:
- Classical immunology, the study of the relationship between body systems, disease and immunity to those diseases (e.g. vaccination)
- Clinical immunology, the study of diseases caused by a malfunction of the immune system. (e.g. autoimmune and immunosuppressing diseases)
- Developmental immunology, the study of how patients of different ages have different responses to diseases.
- Immunotherapy, the use of components of the immune system in the treatment of disease (e.g. interferon).
- Evolutionary immunology, the study of how different organisms fight the diseases that affect them in order to understand evolution.
- Reproductive immunology, the study of how the immune system deals with pregnancy (e.g. maternal mirror syndrome).