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As a pathogen of plague, Yersinia pestis caused three massive pandemics in history that killed hundreds of millions of people. Yersinia pestis is highly invasive, causing severe septicemia which, if untreated, is usually fatal to its host. To survive in the host and maintain a persistent infection, Yersinia pestis uses several stratagems to evade the innate and the adaptive immune responses. For example, infections with this organism are biphasic, involving an initial "noninflammatory" phase where bacterial replication occurs initially with little inflammation and following by extensive phagocyte influx, inflammatory cytokine production, and considerable tissue destruction, which is called "proinflammatory" phase. In contrast, the host also utilizes its immune system to eliminate the invading bacteria. Neutrophil and macrophage are the first defense against Yersinia pestis invading through phagocytosis and killing. Other innate immune cells also play different roles, such as dendritic cells which help to generate more T helper cells. After several days post infection, the adaptive immune response begins to provide organism-specific protection and has a long-lasting immunological memory. Thus, with the cooperation and collaboration of innate and acquired immunity, the bacterium may be eliminated from the host. The research of Yersinia pestis and host immune systems provides an important topic to understand pathogen-host interaction and consequently develop effective countermeasures.


Yujing Bi. Immunology of Yersinia pestis Infection. Advances in experimental medicine and biology. 2016;918:273-292

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PMID: 27722867

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