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Immunity and vaccines, the Italian contribution

Why the current vaccine-hostile trend is so dangerous

Immunity and vaccines, the Italian contribution

Claudia Astarita

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Alberto Mantovani - the scientific director of Humanitas and professor at the popular Humanitas University - is regarded as one of the major experts of immunology. As the Italian daily La Stampa recently recalled, he has recently written the essay Immunity and Vaccines where relevant related themes are treated, such as the functioning of the immune system, children's vaccination as a solidarity act and the use of vaccines against cancer. The latter is regarded by Prof. Mantovani as the biggest challenge in the field of immunology nowadays.

"Sentinel cells of immune system can be used to reactivate the system itself with a strong immune answer", Prof. Mantovani declared to La Stampa. Recent studies have gone beyond the simplistic vision of cancer as an ensemble of tumorous cells, looking at the environment where it develops. Mantovani's equipe has discovered that immune defences can "fall asleep" and from this they have moved forward to work on vaccines against cancer.

Prof. Mantovani has also stressed that monoclonal antibodies have been used against some diseases and tumours. For instance, in case of multiple sclerosis the immune system becomes the enemy and antibodies can be used to dissolve its action.

The assumption that vaccines can be preventive against cancer is already a fact, Prof. Mantovani claims. In fact, he quotes as an example the vaccine against hepatitis B, whose virus is responsible of the tumours attacking the liver. Also the vaccine against HPV works as an instance, since its virus causes cancer at the uterine cervix.

In spite of the great utility of vaccines for several diseases - many of them not existing anymore - public opinion seems unfortunately affected by a vaccine-hostile trend. Prof. Mantovani speaks clear about this topic arguing that people need to be vaccinated to protect themselves the others.

With regard to the claim that vaccine causes autism, Prof. Mantovani says that it is "a false claim spread on the Internet" and that thanks to vaccines "five people a minute are saved in the world".

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