Our immune system is designed to detect and defend us from a wide variety of agents, known as pathogens (i.e., viruses, bacteria, parasitic worms, etc.). It also destroys infected and malignant cells and removes cellular debris, while carefully distinguishing them from our own healthy tissue.
To optimize surveillance and increase efficacy, our immune system activates a diffuse, complex network of interacting cells, cell products, and cell-forming tissues which together constitute our immune defense: the thymus, spleen, lymph nodes and lymph tissue, stem cells, white blood cells, antibodies, and lymphokines.
However, we can classify these organs and tissues into subsystems, such as the innate immune system versus the adaptive immune system, or humoral immunity versus cell-mediated immunity. In humans, the blood–brain barrier, blood–cerebrospinal fluid barrier, and similar fluid–brain barriers separate the peripheral immune system from the neuroimmune system, which protects the brain.
Allergen, Allergy and the Acquired Immune System
Given this complexity and the infinite number of triggers, it is no a surprise that the immune system can overreact to usually harmless triggers in genetically predisposed individuals. Those triggers are called allergens. Examples of allergens include pollens, dust mites, molds, danders, and foods proteins. People prone to allergies are said to be allergic or atopic.
The exaggerated, misguided responses to harmless triggers are known as allergic reactions. Allergies are caused by the acquired immune system, while the chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS) is caused by the innate immune system. There are several articles about allergies and treatment options on our website.
Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS)
CIRS, also known as biotoxin illness, is mediated by a persistent innated immune inflammatory response to toxins, antigens, and inflammagens in the interior environment of water-damaged buildings (WDB). The air and dust in WDB contains a complex mixture of contaminants that form a toxic chemical stew. Here is a list of toxigenic compounds: fungi, bacteria, actinomycetes, mycobacteria, mold, spores, mycotoxins, endotoxins, inflammagens, beta glucans, hemolysins, proteinases, mannans, spirocyclic drimanes, and microbial volatile organic compounds.
Unfortunately, some individuals are unable to process these biotoxins, which cause an inflammation within the body caused by their immune system, which has gone haywire. Mold illness is a subcategory of CIRS.
Testing and Treatment Difference between Allergy and Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS)
For those with an allergy to mold, removal of exposure will result in self-healing and resolution of symptoms. For those with a CIRS, removal from exposure does not result in improvement. Acquired immune problems will have normal levels of C4a and TGF beta1; CIRS will have abnormalities. Acquired immune responses will have elevated IgE but CIRS patients will usually have an IgE that is normal.