The following represents material relating to topics and issues that are of public interest; that have featured in the news and media; or that we believe to be worthy of wider dissemination.
The Liver and the T cell by Anna Schurich
Prof. Dan Davis has penned a fascinating book that details the research that lead to the discovery of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) - a key molecule in immune function. This knowledge has helped to enlighten many other, previously mysterious, aspects of immunity. The book also details the often fascinating personalities behind the discoveries. Prof. Davis talked about the inspiration behind the book in this interview with the BSI's Immunology News.
Q&As: Jake Dunning 

Dr Jake Dunning recently served as a scientific advisor on the film World War Z, starring Brad Pitt. His experience working on the film forms the basis of an article published in the August 2013 edition of the BSI’s newsletter Immunology News. We've made some of the additional material that we weren't able to include in the final article available here.

Myths and misconceptions: World Cancer Day 2013

What are the links between immunology and the myth that ‘Cancer is a disease of the wealthy, elderly and developed countries’? Can we be vaccinated against cancer? And what has all of this got to do with World Cancer Day 2013?

Ebola: ‘the most frightening disease on the planet’?

Less than 40 years ago Ebola was unheard of, but since its discovery over 2200 people have died from what has been described as ‘the most frightening disease on the planet’. A disease for which we have no vaccine, no cure, and no way of predicting when it will spring up next.  Over the summer more than 25 people in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have died from Ebola, but scientists fear that the possibility of a vaccine being developed as a cure is diminishing as time goes on.
Whooping cough, or pertussis as it may be known is respiratory illness that many had thought had been mostly controlled by the childhood vaccination programmes. The Health Protection Agency has recently published data showing that provisionally there have been seven times more confirmed cases already in 2012 than at the same point in 2008. We take a look at whooping cough, the vaccination and the possible reasons for the recent surge in cases.

A Cure for HIV? 

Timothy Ray Brown has recently been heralded as the ‘first man to be cured from HIV’, we look at what this means in terms of finding a universal cure for the 34 million people currently living with HIV. He has now been HIV-free for five years and also recovered from leukaemia all thanks to a stem cell transplant from an ‘elite controller’. The article explores how this was achieved, what it means to be an ‘elite controller’ and the link between HIV and the Great Plague of 1660.

Battling colds and doing (or pledging to do) more exercise are familiar activities for most of us in January. But different levels of exercise can actually significantly increase or decrease your chances of catching a respiratory infection. While regular moderate exercise can reduce the risk of catching cold-like infections, prolonged strenuous exercise, such as marathons, can make an individual more susceptible. Article includes downloadable resource.

Diagnostic tests - fishing for new targets 

A new technique to identify diseases such as Alzheimer’s through a blood test was reported in the media last week. This exciting new technique uses the immune system’s ability to recognise foreign objects.

Cheryl and Amir bring a global problem closer to home 

Yesterday morning newspapers and websites were full of the news that Cheryl Cole, singer and X factor judge, had been admitted to hospital with malaria after a brief trip to Tanzania. This was quickly followed with the news that Amir Khan, the boxer, had been admitted to hospital with suspected malaria, again after a holiday in Africa, though later tested negative for the disease. As well as highlighting the global problem that malaria is it also raises awareness of the problem that is ‘imported’ malaria. 

A bacterial sense of direction 

When we’re cold we put on a jumper and when we’re hot we take it off, but such an ability to alter and control the surrounding environment is a luxury not possessed by many organisms. Bacteria are a perfect example. If the temperature drops or rises beyond their favourite range they’re in trouble. To cope with such changes bacteria have adopted a strategy of moving from one environment to another, making sure they’re always in their comfort zone. From work published this week it appears that this strategy is far more widespread than previously thought. 

The Allergy Jab 

Summer is here, hurray, but those who suffer from hay fever are probably feeling a bit less gleeful about that fact. The NHS estimates that over 10 million people in Britain suffer from hay fever. With allergies such as hay fever, asthma and eczema on the rise the search is on for new treatments to relieve the suffering of the millions of people affected world wide. The future possibility of an allergy jab has been heavily reported in the media, here we take a look at what they were talking about.

Peter Cresswell - Profile

Peter Cresswell has made outstanding contributions to our understanding of antigen processing and presentation via MHC molecules - a central facet of adaptive immunity. In this article he discusses his productive life in research.

Mast cells: more than just an allergy  

Mast cells are most commonly associated with allergies and anaphylactic shock, but the case of Stephanie Brown reported this week in the national press has raised the profile of another condition caused by mast cells: cutaneous mastocytosis. 

The teenager whose face grew back
While many of us may suffer daily from allergies such as hayfever or asthma, the allergic reaction experienced by Eva Uhlin as documented in the national media this week occurs in 1 in a million people per year. Eva suffered toxic epidermal necrolysis which is an extreme allergic reaction, in the case of Eva, to paracetamol. The reaction caused Eva’s skin to blister and scab, leading at times to parts of her chest and arms to fall off. Eva was fortunate to survive and after years of treatment she is able to lead a near normal life. 
In this article we discuss allergies and the biology behind toxic epidermal necrolysis

Leukaemia vaccine 
As reported in the national press this week scientists at King’s College London have developed a vaccine against leukaemia which is currently being test in clinical trials. It is hoped that the vaccine, which uses cancerous cells from the patient, will improve the long-term survival of patients and potentially provide an alternative to chemotherapy.

Reconditioned’ Lung Transplants 
As reported in the British media this week, researchers and surgeons at the University of Newcastle carried out the first transplant in the UK using a new technique to revive lungs.

World Aids Day 2009  
In the early 1980’s a new disease appeared in the USA, known as acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), it was found to be caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). From the five initial cases of AIDS identified in the US in 1981, an estimated 33.4 million people are today living with HIV according to UN figures. 
Discover more about the virus here

Jasmine Tanner and the Rhesus Factor 

Anti-D therapy for haemolytic disease of the newborn is a routine intervention when Rh- mothers are carrying Rh+ children. However, its routine nature can sometimes mask its very real importance - especially where not all is routine... 

XMRV: A New Cancer Virus? 
Research reported in the journal PNAS suggests a possible link between the XMRV virus and prostate cancer. You can find-out more here.

Fascinating insights into the important work of MRC The Gambia, as seen through the work of two of its researchers Sarah Burl and Martin Holland. Learn more about the challenges and rewards of research in the field. 

Immunology in Cardiff: Building Upon Success (PDF) 

An in-depth profile of the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Immunology within Wales College of Medicine at Cardiff University - including profiles of various of its researchers. The Department has benefited immensely from the development of the Henry Wellcome Building for Biomedical Research in Wales, which provides state-of-the-art facilities and is the largest development of its kind ever undertaken in the Principality.

Stephen Holgate: a Profile (PDF)  

A renowned expert in the field of allergy and asthma research, Stephen Holgate here recounts his career in research, gives his views on scientific policy and the future of the biomedical industry, as well as providing a personal a perspective on the role of the researcher in society.

Alexander Diehl (Jackson Laboratory), Evelyn Camon (European Bioinformatics Institute) & Ruth Lovering (University College London)

This is an accessible introduction to the Gene Ontology (GO), a powerful hierarchical system of terms and descriptors, available online, that has the potential to revolutionise approaches to immunology research - particularly those involving high-throughput methodologies. It also functions as a 'call-to-arms' to immunologists to meet the ongoing demand for appropriate literature references supporting the characterisation of the numerous immune elements and processes described in GO - thereby improving the resolution of results. A further technical review published in Immunology journal is available here.

For information about the UCL-based GO annotation project please visit:

Introduction to Vital Imaging Methods 

The Centre for Biophotonics, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK
The use of imaging methods to visualise structure and function in organic systems has a relatively long history, dating back to Roentgen's discovery of X-rays at the end of the nineteenth century. Within the context of immune function, Professor Paul Garside, Dr Jim Brewer and colleagues from the Centre for Biophotonics at the University of Strathclyde follow the story from its origins up to the present day, with the promise of techniques that will allow high resolution imaging in vivo and in real-time. 

Crisis in provision of care for the allergy epidemic

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee Report on Allergy is the latest of four reports preceded by the Royal College of Physicians report 'Allergy the unmet need' in 2003, The 'Provision of Allergy Services' House of Commons Health Committee report 2004 and Department of Health Review of Allergy Services 2006, all of which agree that allergy services are inadequate to meet the demand of the epidemic of patients with allergic disorders.
On the evening of 15 February 2007, one of the brightest scientific lights in East Africa was extinguished. This short obituary pays tribute to a young but already internationally acknowledged scientist. 

Roland Levinsky - a tribute

Roland Levinsky died in tragic circumstances on 1 January 2007. He was immensely influential in Clinical Immunology, most particularly primary immunodeficiency.
Given their proven effectiveness and invaluable importance in the prevention and control of infectious disease, it is no surprise that vaccines have been identified as potential treatments for diseases that originate within the body itself (such as cancer). Further research has centred upon manipulating the 'sensitivity' of the immune system in order to induce it to target aberrant tissue, such as tumours, by switching-off certain regulatory components known as regulatory T cells (Tregs). 

Gardasil - The world's first cancer vaccine 

A brief report regarding the announcement of the approval of this human papillomavirus vaccine that is also a prophylactic against cervical cancer in women.

Avian flu - to know one's enemy  

As outbreaks of limited bird-to-human transmission of the H5N1 bird flu virus continue to grab the headlines, this article outlines the particular challenges associated with predicting the behaviour of this formidable adversary.

Hepatitis C: the forgotten epidemic 

The challenges associated with combating this prevalent, but all too elusive virus.

Spring cleaning & spring fever 

A overview of the underlying immunological basis of hay fever and allergy, with reference to novel therapies currently in development.

Of mice and men 

An overview of type-1 diabetes, and the role of insulin, together with a report on a novel therapeutic approach trialed in mice.


Search the BSI

Members login
Information for the public immunology

Disclaimer: Due to questions of resource, and ethical considerations, as a professional organisation representing the interests of our members, we are not in a position to offer specific medical advice to individuals, nor are we willing to disclose member information for this purpose.