Ecoimmunology is a young field of research. It has experienced a substantial rise in attention over the last two decades as technological advances enable improvements in data acquisition. The holy grail of ecoimmunology is understanding why individuals differ in their immune responses, as is well exemplified by the COVID-19 epidemic, where cases range from asymptomatic (showing no signs of illness) to mild or severe respiratory symptoms. These symptoms are not direct signs of how many virus particles are in the body, but rather reflect our immune response to the virus.
This observation, that we all have unique immune responses, is not specific to viral infections, and is termed ‘immune variation’. But why do individuals react so differently to the same immunological challenge? Uncovering the answer to this question has implications for public health, agriculture, wildlife management and conservation.
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