Evolution

Relative immunity

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Science  30 Apr 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6541, pp. 477-478
DOI: 10.1126/science.372.6541.477-e

Humans and other apes tend to respond differently to infection compared with other primates. For instance, baboons can tolerate almost 10-fold greater exposure to bacterial cell wall material than humans can before developing septic shock. Hawash et al. suspected that innate immune signaling lies at the heart of the differences observed among different types of primates. The authors looked at whole-genome expression patterns of leukocytes from four diverse primates within 24 hours of responding to viral and bacterial pathogens. Indeed, the apes' innate responses were first off the mark. This finding indicates that apes undergo immediate pathogen clearance despite the risk of potential collateral damage to self. This is possibly because, evolutionarily, this strategy favors the longer-lived apes, who experience more pathogen exposure during their lifetimes.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 118, e2015855118 (2021).

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