“Autoimmunity is the system of immune responses of an organism against its own healthy cells, tissues, and other body normal constituents. Any disease that results from such an aberrant immune response is termed an “autoimmune disease.” –Wikipedia
As many as 4.5% of the world’s population may be affected by any of about 80 autoimmune diseases. Some such as psoriasis are cosmetic, and others such as multiple sclerosis are life-threatening. So when the human body attacks itself, should we assume that it is because the body’s design is flawed? The exact cause of autoimmune disorders is unknown, but as more and more data becomes available, it is clear that this is not a flaw in the design of the immune system.
First of all, the number of autoimmune disorders that affect large populations is minimal. Psoriasis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, celiac disease, Graves disease, and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common, affecting one person out of every 100. Type 1 diabetes, vitiligo, and rheumatic fever can affect one person out of every 1000 or so. Most autoimmune diseases are infrequent, with some affecting fewer than 1 in a million people.
Secondly, we now know that some bacteria or viruses entering the human body from animals may confuse the immune system and lead to disorders. COVID and AIDS have shown us that animals are a source of viruses that can cause disease in humans.
Thirdly, chemicals can trigger changes in cells that the immune system is not designed to handle. Pesticides, herbicides, recreational drugs, industrial waste, and medical waste have caused all kinds of problems for humans. Immune disorders may not be because of bad design of the immune system but the result of human ignorance, carelessness, and greed.
Fourth, a new study has suggested that stress may lead to some autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. There is a higher incidence of autoimmune diseases among people who were previously diagnosed with stress-related disorders.
God’s design of the human immune system is amazing. As the Psalmist said. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14). The immune system that allows most of us to live for many years with good health is one of the best demonstrations of the truth of that statement.
— John N. Clayton
See the September 2021 issue of Scientific American (pages 26-51) for much more information about autoimmune diseases, their causes, and potential cures. Pages 32 and 33 display a fascinating chart with data on 76 autoimmune disorders.