Defense Mechanisms of the Respiratory Tract

  • Ramon G. Canto
  • George R. Robinson
  • Herbert Y. Reynolds
Part of the Infectious Agents and Pathogenesis book series (IAPA)


The human respiratory tract, with its primary function of moving ambient air into intimate contact with blood for gas exchange, is constantly confronted with a multitude of noxious agents and elements that abound in the environment, including a variety of microbial pathogens. Moreover, the nasooropharynx is heavily colonized with a diverse group of microorganisms that can be aspirated into the lower airways. It is therefore remarkable that respiratory infections are not more common and are usually not serious for most humans. The host defense apparatus of the lung is responsible for this protection. This system consists of structural, mechanical, secretory, and cellular mechanisms that are designed to eliminate or contain the majority of these pathogenic agents (Table I). The human host is rendered more susceptible to pulmonary infections if any of the system’s components malfunctions or if the system is overwhelmed by a new microbe, a particularly virulent microbial strain, or a large inoculum dose.


Pneumonia Superoxide Bacillus Interferon Smoke 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ramon G. Canto
    • 1
  • George R. Robinson
    • 1
  • Herbert Y. Reynolds
    • 2
  1. 1.Pulmonary/Critical Care DivisionUSA
  2. 2.Department of Medicine, M.S. Hershey Medical CenterThe Pennsylvania State UniversityHersheyUSA

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