Such immune response is anticipatory and its specificity is assured by pre-existing clones of lymphocytes, which expand in response to specific antigen (process called "clonal selection"). This specific clonal army then combats the pathogen until the body is free of the infection. Following clearance of the infection, the clones that are no longer needed die away naturally.
However, a small number of the body's army of lymphocytes are able to react with proteins that are normally present in a healthy body. The clonal expansion of those cells can lead to autoimmune diseases, wherein the body attacks itself. In order to prevent this process, lymphocytes possess an intrinsic quality-control mechanism. This machinery shuts down the lymphocytes' ability to expand, if the trigger for the expansion turns out to be the body's own protein. T-cell anergy can arise when the T-cell does not receive appropriate co-stimulation in the presence of specific antigen recognition. B-cell anergy can be induced by exposure to soluble circulating antigen, and is often marked by a downregulation of surface IgM expression and partial blockade of intracellular signaling pathways.
It is an intradermal test of skin reactivity (similar to tuberculin tests) in which a control (glycerol) is used with seven antigens of bacterial or fungal origin (tetanus toxoid, tuberculin, diphtheria, streptococcus, candida, trichophyton, and proteus). In this test reactions are categorized according to the number of antigens provoking a response and the summed extent of the skin response to all seven antigens. Here anergy is defined as a region of skin reactivity of 0–1 mm, hypoergy as a reaction of 2–9 mm in response to fewer than three antigens, normergic as a reaction of 10–39 mm or to three or more antigens, and hyperergy for a reaction of 40 mm or more.
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