Teaching immunology to kids: We are friends with bacteria

The immune system is not at war with bacteria, we live in peace :)
I dislike the war analogy with immune system. It conveys an aggressive worldview full of US against THEM and fails to explain a lot of what goes on. I do understand why it’s use. When you simplify immunity it works. But it evacuates the incredible cooperation and synergy happening throughout the immune system when your body detects damage and tries to fix it. I wish we could find another comparison that is as good for teaching it and way less agressive.
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Yes, I do agree the war analogy is aggressive.

Your opinion got me thinking.. How could we find another comparison which is less aggressive yet simple? What if you had to introduce the immune system to a kid?

I would not recommend fixing the idea that it's "Our cells" against "The evil bacteria". That would be wrong. I feel that showing two sides of a the same coin is the best way to explain it.

I’m guessing a fight (instead of a war) would be milder way to introduce.

We need to teach our students that most of the bacteria are non-pathogenic & we live with them. (Just like we live in the same building with our neighbors.)

It’s only when bacteria start causing harm that we need to combat them. (It’s like when your neighbor starts dumping garbage at your doorstep, you need to stand up against him!)

If our white blood cells don’t fight, bacteria invade & make us weak. (If you don’t fight the culprit, the next thing you know the neighbor has invaded your space and is dumping garbage inside your house.)

But of course, the immune system doesn't start fighting immediately. It makes sure that the bacteria in question is a harmful one, not a harmless cell. Our B cells make use of helper T cells for this purpose. (To make sure the neighbor suspected is the one dumping garbage we take help of someone, say, a spy.)

Once it’s confirmed that the antigen presented is non-self, the B cells target it & let the bigger granulocytes and macrophages take care of it. (You tell someone senior, like the manager, to take care of the issue.)

Only that the manager gives a warning.. And the phagocytic cells eat the bacteria up =P

Read the complete tumblr conversation here.