Sometime in the mid to late twentieth century the study of antibody-mediated immunity (AMI) entered the doldrums, as many immunologists believed that the function of AMI was well understood, and was no longer deserving of intensive investigation. However, beginning in the 1990s studies using monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) revealed new functions for antibodies, including direct antimicrobial effects and their ability to modify host inflammatory and cellular responses. Furthermore, the demonstration that mAbs to several intracellular bacterial and fungal pathogens were protective issued a serious challenge to the paradigm that host defense against such microbes was strictly governed by cell-mediated immunity (CMI). Hence, a new view of AMI is emerging. This view is based on the concept that a major function of antibody (Ab) is to amplify or subdue the inflammatory response to a microbe. In this regard, the "damage-response framework" of microbial pathogenesis provides a new conceptual viewpoint for understanding mechanisms of AMI. According to this view, the ability of an Ab to affect the outcome of a host-microbe interaction is a function of its capacity to modify the damage ensuing from such an interaction. In fact, it is increasingly apparent that the efficacy of an Ab cannot be defined either by immunoglobulin or epitope characteristics alone, but rather by a complex function of Ab variables, such as specificity, isotype, and amount, host variables, such as genetic background and immune status, and microbial variables, such as inoculum, mechanisms of avoiding host immune surveillance and pathogenic strategy. Consequently, far from being understood, recent findings in AMI imply a system with unfathomable complexity and the field is poised for a long overdue renaissance.
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