The Gell–Coombs classification

William W Busse

in Landmark Papers in Allergy

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print February 2013 | ISBN: 9780199651559
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754241 | DOI:

Series: Landmark Papers

The Gell–Coombs classification

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  • Public Health and Epidemiology
  • Immunology
  • Respiratory Medicine and Pulmonology


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Throughout this book we have attempted to use an unequivocal and precise terminology, in which the ‘allergic state’ is taken to denote a state of altered reactivity to an antigenic substance. A main stumbling block to clear thinking has always been the use of the words ‘immunity’ and ‘immune’ – implying as they do by their common meaning absolute protection against a noxious agent, or at least the occurrence of some process strictly advantageous to the organism. . . . In our usage the ‘immune state’ is specifically the state of protection against the biological effects of an antigen or organism carrying the antigen. On the other hand, in the minds of many practising physicians, the term ‘allergy’, though a useful and indeed a fashionable one, implies no precise concept; it is used as a rough and ready label for all conditions in which the active reaction of a patient’s own tissues, rather than a disordered physiological process like cancer or diabetes or direct damage by an invading organism, determines the manifest lesions of the disease, or at least a large part of them.

Chapter.  1781 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology ; Immunology ; Respiratory Medicine and Pulmonology

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