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Disease and the Immune System

In this worksheet, students will study what causes disease and how the immune system fights it. They also study active and passive immunity (vaccination).

'Disease and the Immune System' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

Curriculum topic:  Biology: Health, Disease and Medicines

Curriculum subtopic:  Body Defences

Difficulty level:  

down

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Your body is an amazing design - there are things that are trying to harm it coming from everywhere. Bacteria, viruses, blood-sucking bats and killer plants from outer space. But, thanks to years of perfecting the design, your body has a load of defence mechanisms to help you to kill off any foreign invaders. These mechanisms are so good that they can tell if you have an organ transplant and they will try and kills it (because it's not your own organ and it doesn't belong in your body!). To help with this, if you have an organ transplant, most people have to take drugs for the rest of their life to slow down their immune system so it doesn't kill off the foreign organ invader. We will take a look at how your body keeps you safe in this worksheet. 

 

Microorganisms are tiny living organisms, usually made from only one cell. Some are quite useful, such as yeast that is used in baking, but most are quite dangerous, as they can cause disease. Microorganisms that cause disease are called pathogens. There are four types of pathogens:

  • bacteria, examples of diseases they cause are cholera, tuberculosis, salmonella, tetanus and pneumonia
  • viruses that cause AIDS, measles, rubella, warts and flu
  • fungi that cause athlete's foot, thrush and even throat infections
  • protozoa that cause dysentery and malaria

 

Diseases that can spread from person to person are called contagious. Vector animals, like the mosquito and the house fly carry microorganisms that cause a disease but they do not suffer from the disease themselves. An example of this is malaria, which is caused by the protozoan Plasmodium falciparum, which is transmitted to humans when they are bitten by female mosquitoes in some tropical areas. This parasite feeds on red blood cells from humans causing fever which can often be fatal.

 

Fortunately, our body can fight pathogens with the help of white blood cells. This is active immunity, as our body actively tries to fight disease. Medical research has developed antibiotics and vaccines to save even more lives. This is called passive immunity.

What do we call microorganisms that cause disease?

Tick two statements that describe vectors.

Vectors are animals that carry a disease while not suffering from it.

The parasites that vectors carry feed on red blood cells in humans.

Spiders are vectors that carry malaria.

Vectors are diagrams used in maths.

Cancer is an illness, although it is rarely caused by microorganisms. An example is cervical cancer, which may be caused by a strain of a virus called HPV. It is caused by cells which divide out of control. Benign tumours are not cancerous.

Do you know the scientific name for cancerous tumours? Research the Internet to find out if you aren't sure.

Use your common sense or any previous knowledge you have to answer the following question.

What can we do to help our body fight disease? Three statements are correct.

We should expose ourselves to the sun alot, as well as very cold weather.

We should consume lots of vitamins.

We should eat food that contains iron.

We should maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Look at the diagram that shows ways that the body uses to prevent microorganisms from entering the body, as well as 'weapons' once the pathogens have entered.

 

an image detailing the immune system.

 

Tick two conclusions that you can derive from the diagram about how the body fights pathogens before they enter.

Tears have bacteria killing substances.

The skin protects the body on the outside.

Antibodies are produced by white blood cells.

Defense cells are called B-lymphocytes.

White blood cells fight disease in three different ways:

  • they produce antibodies
  • they produce antitoxins, some kind of an antidote for the toxins (poisonous chemicals) produced by microorganisms
  • they engulf (eat) pathogens; this is called phagocytosis

 

Pathogens have chemical structures on their surface that are specific for each type of pathogen; they are called antigens. White blood cells produce antibodies that surround and disarm the pathogen by destroying the antigens. Here are two diagrams that show this process.

image of antibody specificity Image of a phagocyte

 

Study the diagrams and tick two statements that apply.

The shape of the antibody depends on the shape of the antigen.

The shape of the antigen depends on the shape of the antibody.

Each type of antibody is made to disarm antigens produced by specific types of pathogens.

Blue-purple antibodies are the best.

Image of phogocitosis

 

Can you guess the name of the process illustrated in the diagram above? Think about the information that was given in the previous question.

An epidemic is when a disease spreads amongst the population of an area or country. An epidemic becomes a pandemic when the disease spreads across the world.

 

 A Graph

 

Study the graph shown how the swine flu pandemic affected the United States of America.

How many people were infected between the 15th of May 2009 (05/15/09) and the 10th of July (07/10/09)?

When our white blood cells make antibodie to fight a disease, it can take some time, like two weeks. However, some diseases would develop really quickly and could even kill us during this time, so scientists have developed vaccines. Injection of a vaccine is called vaccination or immunisation and is passive immunity, because our immune system receives some help. 

A vaccine contains a weak or dead form of the pathogen, which white blood cells still recognise as foreign to our body, so they produce antibodies (this takes a few weeks as mentioned above). If we are infected by the real pathogen after being vaccinated though, pathogens can make antibodies within a couple of days, because they are familiar with the pathogen. 

The graph shows clearly that the secondary response (making antibodies for the second exposure to the pathogen) is much higher than the primary response.

 

A graph

 

Tick two statements that are correct about this graph.

Primary response is higher that the secondary.

The curve of the secondary response is steeper than that of the primary response.

A steeper curve means antibody production is higher and faster.

A primary response is only triggered by a vaccine.

Antibiotics are drugs that are developed to fight bacteria. They cannot kill viruses.

Tick two statements that are true about viruses.

We can kill viruses with antibiotics.

All viruses can be tackled with vaccines.

Viruses use the host's cells to reproduce.

Viruses mutate (change DNA) frequently so new drugs have to be developed regularly to tackle the new form of the virus.

  • Question 1

What do we call microorganisms that cause disease?

CORRECT ANSWER
pathogens
EDDIE SAYS
Pathogens are microorganisms that cause disease. They include bacteria, viruses, fungi and protists.
  • Question 2

Tick two statements that describe vectors.

CORRECT ANSWER
Vectors are animals that carry a disease while not suffering from it.
The parasites that vectors carry feed on red blood cells in humans.
EDDIE SAYS
Vectors are animals that carry a disease, while they do not suffer from it. An example is mosquitoes that carry a parasite that causes malaria, or fleas that carry the bubonic plague.
  • Question 3

Cancer is an illness, although it is rarely caused by microorganisms. An example is cervical cancer, which may be caused by a strain of a virus called HPV. It is caused by cells which divide out of control. Benign tumours are not cancerous.

Do you know the scientific name for cancerous tumours? Research the Internet to find out if you aren't sure.

CORRECT ANSWER
malignant
EDDIE SAYS
Cancerous tumours are called malignant. This means that they are not enclosed by a membrane and are able to spread to different parts of the body.
  • Question 4

Use your common sense or any previous knowledge you have to answer the following question.

What can we do to help our body fight disease? Three statements are correct.

CORRECT ANSWER
We should consume lots of vitamins.
We should eat food that contains iron.
We should maintain a healthy lifestyle.
EDDIE SAYS
A healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet (eating vitamins and minerals) are very important. They make you more healthy in general and so when you become ill you are stronger and more able to fight off the pathogens.
  • Question 5

Look at the diagram that shows ways that the body uses to prevent microorganisms from entering the body, as well as 'weapons' once the pathogens have entered.

 

an image detailing the immune system.

 

Tick two conclusions that you can derive from the diagram about how the body fights pathogens before they enter.

CORRECT ANSWER
Tears have bacteria killing substances.
The skin protects the body on the outside.
EDDIE SAYS
All four sentences describe how the body fights disease, but only option 1 and 2 refer to ways that pathogens are fought before they enter the body. We call these non-specific as they kill all pathogens and not only specific ones.
  • Question 6

White blood cells fight disease in three different ways:

  • they produce antibodies
  • they produce antitoxins, some kind of an antidote for the toxins (poisonous chemicals) produced by microorganisms
  • they engulf (eat) pathogens; this is called phagocytosis

 

Pathogens have chemical structures on their surface that are specific for each type of pathogen; they are called antigens. White blood cells produce antibodies that surround and disarm the pathogen by destroying the antigens. Here are two diagrams that show this process.

image of antibody specificity Image of a phagocyte

 

Study the diagrams and tick two statements that apply.

CORRECT ANSWER
The shape of the antibody depends on the shape of the antigen.
Each type of antibody is made to disarm antigens produced by specific types of pathogens.
EDDIE SAYS
Antibodies are made after the pathogens (with their antigens) enter the body, so their shape fits that of the antigen. Therefore, pathogens are fought by specific antibodies. If the antibodies where generalised, then they could accidentally harm your body cells. This is why the immune system needs to be specific about what it attacks.
  • Question 7

Image of phogocitosis

 

Can you guess the name of the process illustrated in the diagram above? Think about the information that was given in the previous question.

CORRECT ANSWER
phagocytosis
EDDIE SAYS
Some white blood cells specialise in engulfing (eating) pathogens. This process is called phagocytosis.
  • Question 8

An epidemic is when a disease spreads amongst the population of an area or country. An epidemic becomes a pandemic when the disease spreads across the world.

 

 A Graph

 

Study the graph shown how the swine flu pandemic affected the United States of America.

How many people were infected between the 15th of May 2009 (05/15/09) and the 10th of July (07/10/09)?

CORRECT ANSWER
32,500
32 500
32500
EDDIE SAYS
In order to find the answer you have to subtract the number of cases on the 15th of May (5,000) from the number of cases on the 10th of July (37,500), which leaves 32,500.
  • Question 9

When our white blood cells make antibodie to fight a disease, it can take some time, like two weeks. However, some diseases would develop really quickly and could even kill us during this time, so scientists have developed vaccines. Injection of a vaccine is called vaccination or immunisation and is passive immunity, because our immune system receives some help. 

A vaccine contains a weak or dead form of the pathogen, which white blood cells still recognise as foreign to our body, so they produce antibodies (this takes a few weeks as mentioned above). If we are infected by the real pathogen after being vaccinated though, pathogens can make antibodies within a couple of days, because they are familiar with the pathogen. 

The graph shows clearly that the secondary response (making antibodies for the second exposure to the pathogen) is much higher than the primary response.

 

A graph

 

Tick two statements that are correct about this graph.

CORRECT ANSWER
The curve of the secondary response is steeper than that of the primary response.
A steeper curve means antibody production is higher and faster.
EDDIE SAYS
The curve becomes much steeper after the secondary response. This means that antibody production is faster and higher. A primary response can be caused by a vaccine or the first exposure to the real pathogen.
  • Question 10

Antibiotics are drugs that are developed to fight bacteria. They cannot kill viruses.

Tick two statements that are true about viruses.

CORRECT ANSWER
Viruses use the host's cells to reproduce.
Viruses mutate (change DNA) frequently so new drugs have to be developed regularly to tackle the new form of the virus.
EDDIE SAYS
Viruses use the host's cells to reproduce and mutate (change DNA) frequently so new drugs have to be developed regularly to tackle the new form of the virus.
---- OR ----

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