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Violent sex acts boost insect's immunity system
Date:12/4/2007

may also transfer disease and, at the same time, sperm is an antigen (non-self) for any female with all its potential immunological complications.

The conference was the first of two organised by the ESF on innate immunitys relationship with the environment, with the second staged for 2009. The stage was set for some further research that will be presented at that second conference, including important work on the hygiene hypothesis, applicable at least to humans, which states that too much cleanliness is actually bad for the developing immune system in children. There is a growing awareness and consent that early exposure to antigens/pathogens is important for the full capacity of the immune system, said Schmid-Hempel. Although this hypothesis has yet to be finally proven, especially since the underlying molecular mechanisms are imperfectly understood, there is accumulating evidence that excessive hygiene is bad for children.

The conference also tackled the controversial and difficult subject of how and when adaptive immunity evolved from innate immunity in vertebrates (and possibly, as is now starting to be believed, analogues in insects as well). One new suggestion is that vertebrate adaptive immunity first evolved in co-evolution with parasitic flatworms, aided by frequent genome duplication and the need to reduce metabolic costs of immune defences. A similar process might have taken place in insects as they faced particular parasitic groups. But as Schmid-Hempel pointed out, these remain areas of huge disagreement, with here too further discussion likely at the 2009 conference.

Other topics for further research and discussion at the 2009 conference were identified, including the detailed innate immune mechanisms underlying defence against different classes of pathogen, especially viruses and protozoa (the agent of malaria). Much also remains to be discovered about the underlying population genetics of immunity.

The resear
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Contact: Paul Schmid-Hempel
paul.schmid-hempel@env.ethz.ch
41-446-336-048
European Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

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