This is an entirely theoretical question, so all you scientists....
I've always wondered what if any relationship there is between "autoimmune" and "immune system". The reason I wondered is that all my life I have had an unusually strong immune system. I road in a van with all the other kids who one by one got the classic childhood diseases and I never got any of them! I rarely get the flu or a cold. (I'm usually quite indignant when I do!). And I am part of the 10-15% of the population who "spontaneously cleared" the HepC virus. (I have the antibodies for HepC, but no detectable virus) Then in my 40s I got my first autoimmune disorder - Graves Disease (hyperthyroidism) and in my 50s my second, Type 1 Diabetes. I know that people with one autoimmune condition are susceptible to getting other ones.
So does this mean that my immune system works so hard at fighting off disease, that it also mistakenly attacks itself (the autoimmune response)? Just curious - wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience or knows anything about a connection between the two things.
It does seem like it could be a piece of the puzzle. I don't have the knowledge or training to make a determination either, but it would be an interesting study. I can't remember the last time I had the flu. Never have had a flu shot. Usually the worst thing I get is a sinus headache. Maybe a cold every couple years.
Same here, Randy. 1976 was the last time I had anything remotely resembling a flu.......
I have always wondered this myself. I rarely get sick, and it's almost odd. I don't do anything special (no flu shots, no crazy handwashing, etc), but everyone around me can be dropping like flies from flus and colds and I'm fine. Never had the flu that I'm aware of. In fact, other than an odd bout with strep when I was in college, I am just never sick.
Yep, same here. Sometimes I wake up with a stuffy nose and think I'm getting a cold, but then it goes away and I realize it's mild allergies, or if it persists I take some vitamin c and then in a few days I fight it off.
I've been talking about "autoimmune" since I was diagnosed (well, re-diagnosed anyway), and my strong "immune system" all my life (other people comment on it too)but just started wondering what is the relationship between the two.
Add me to the list of those who rarely get sick. The last time I remember having anything like the flu was 13 years ago. It may be completely unrelated, but I also have a cast iron stomach. I've never gotten food poisoning, despite having eaten the same food that has made others sick. I'm hypo thyroid and also have had Raynaud's Syndrome, which I just learned can be an autoimmune issue, for over 25 years.
Thanks for the input, Shawnmarie. I had a pretty strong stomach too, eating very spicy food, strong coffee, etc, until I got acid reflux disease. I still eat spicy food and drink espresso I just have to avoid things like tomatoes, onions and oj.
Cucumbers are my Kryptonite. I love the taste, but for lack of a better word, they like to "repeat" on me.
I almost never get sick either. Like others I have many sick people around me but I never get sick. I have also wondered about the connection. I would be willing to bet there is not a whole lot of research looking into this connection. Seems like it may be an angle to figure out in the hopes of developing a cure but I have never heard much about it. You have re-intrigued me so I am going to go a searching. Will let you know what I find...
Spontaneously clearing the HepC virus was the one that cinched it for me that I had an unusually strong immune system, because since I did HepC education I knew that only 10-15% of the population did that. I don't know if anyone has done research on people who rarely get sick, let alone correlate it with autoimmune conditions!
I guess they don't know all they could about autoimmune responses. I know I heard years ago that looking for a cure for AIDS took researchers into some very basic for lack of a better word "how viruses actually work" territory, though I don't know what came of all that research. (except, of course, no real cure).
I'm glad you have thought about it too, MD, and excited you are going to look into it further; you stand a far better chance than me of actually making sense of what you read!
How cool would it be if some idle reflection by me on TuD led to a cure for Diabetes!! Yeah, now I'm being grandiose as hell. Back in the day when we were losing so many people to AIDS I dreamed of being the one to find a cure. (Ignoring the fact that I have no knowledge or talent for science!)
Yes definitely let me/us know what you find!
I have had similar questions, Zoe. I was the one who'd go three years without getting a cold. I also healed very quickly. Then I developed Hashimoto's thyroiditis (autoimmune hypothyroidism) and Type 2. I also have hyperplasia of the adrenals, PCOS and endometriosis. All of these conditions except the T2 involve abnormal growths (benign tumors or nodules) of the endocrine glands -- and all of them show up in clusters in individuals and families with other autoimmune diseases (in my family, rheumatoid arthritis and uveitis) and are considered to be autoimmune-related.
Maybe having a "strong" immune system is a mixed blessing?
When we found the melanoma lesion on my foot the pathologist noted the "perfusion" around it -- a sign that my immune system was fighting it. The same thing that kept melanoma from spreading may have also given me T2: a strong and reactive immune system.
For that, I choose to be guardedly grateful.
In my opinion the terms strong or weak are not that appropriate for the immune system. Any bacteria with an aggressive rate of growth can outperform the immune system for a while. To prevent this from happening the alertness of the immune system is an important factor to win the race of reproduction. Autoimmunity is a form of higher alertness that comes with a price: to some degree the recognition of friendly tissue is impaired. It is as if the immune system has not been properly trained and some of the T-cells can now show a rogue behaviour towards our own tissue. If this makes us more resistant to illnesses in general is not that clear to me. In my view it can also mean that the immune system is distracted. It can also be argued that high blood glucose is weakening the capabilities of our defence. The rogue behaviour can cause all sorts of autoimmune conditions and most T1 diabetics will face more than one in their lifetime (my own experience). It is the autoimmunity that is inherited from generation to generation - not T1 diabetes. That this autoimmunity will actually cause the development of T1 is very rare. That is why it seems as if T1 is skipping generations. Sometimes all the random events necessary to develop T1 come together at a later stage in life - you can call that LADA or just bad luck. Although it is rare worldwide something important has changed over the last decade: the likelyhood for the development of T1 has risen significantly. In Germany we had an incidence rate of 19,4 per 100000 people per year in 2007. It is projected that this will rise to 37,9 per 100000 people per year in 2026. In Finland they already had 64,2 per 100000 per year in 2005. Obviously some environmental factor is fueling this development.
Denise Faustman has shown that a vaccine can somehow modulate the immune system to clear out the rogue T-cells. The questions is if clearing them out is enough to have long term success. After all the cause for the improper training of the T-cells has not been fixed. At some point in the future it is likely that the immune system will again grow some of the rogue T-cells. But perhaps permanent vaccination can keep that at bay.
Holger, are you saying that like for measles, a vaccination may be able to be given against T1? Is that what Denise Faustman is working towards - amazing!