What Are The Differences Between Innate And Adaptive Immunity?

The human body is a curious thing. Immunity is a fascinating process in living organisms, such as humans, whereby they develop resistance to specific illnesses and infections.

This amazing ability is controlled by the immune system.

The immune system has the important role of protecting the body from harmful bacteria, toxins, and viruses.

Difference Between Innate and Adaptive Immunity

Without an immune system, a person would be sick all the time.

Their body would become infected with harmful invaders.

Thankfully, humans can rely on the immune system, which provides them with immunity to certain illnesses. But did you know that there are two kinds of immunity?

Namely, these two types are innate and adaptive. Find out what separates them right here!

What Is Innate Immunity?

Innate immunity refers to immunity that an organism possesses when they are born. Essentially, it is a natural form of immunity.

This form of immunity is present in a person’s genes, so you will always have it. Usually, this is the body’s primary line of defense against illness.

An example of innate immunity in the human body is mucus. This defensive lining traps bacteria, preventing body parts from being infected by them.

Another example is the human cough reflex. This reflex is designed to remove foreign materials from the pathway, thus protecting the body from invaders.

What Is Adaptive Immunity?

In comparison, adaptive immunity is a form of immunity that humans are not born with.

Instead, this form of immunity forms during an organism’s life. Usually, adaptive immunity develops when the organism is exposed to antigens.

There are different ways of triggering adaptive immunity. One way of doing this is through vaccination. The COIVD-19 vaccines are a brilliant example of this.

Vaccines work by containing an inactive and harmless antigen of the illness, thus activating a reaction from the immune system.

Another way in which adaptive immunity can be triggered is through infection.

An example of this is chickenpox. After suffering from the infection, most people develop adaptive immunity. As a result, they will not suffer from the condition again.

What Is The Difference Between Innate And Adaptive Immunity?

There are several key differences between innate and adaptive immunity.

Specific Vs Non-Specific

While innate immunity is non-specific, adaptive immunity is specific. Non-specific immune responses do not need to be triggered and they can fight any invader.

In contrast, specific immune responses rely on the body producing antibodies that deal with specific invaders that the body previously encountered.

While one is born with innate immunity, one must develop adaptive immunity via certain encounters.

Response Times

Another key difference between these two varieties of immunity is their response times.

Adaptive immunity is a considerably slower response than innate immunity. It can take days for adaptive immunity to take effect, occasionally even taking weeks.


Moreover, while innate immunity lasts for the duration of an organism’s life, adaptive immunity does not necessarily do the same.

The length of time that it lasts can depend on the illness. In some cases, adaptive immunity can only last if the organism is re-exposed to the invader.

This is why many vaccines require multiple doses throughout a person’s lifespan, as they can be short-term.

Inherited Vs Acquired

As mentioned before, innate immunity is inherited naturally, while adaptive immunity is not inherited. Organisms are not born with adaptive immunity.

Instead, it is acquired through interactions, such as vaccines.


When it comes to innate immunity, one of its disadvantages is that it is less powerful than adaptive immunity.

It is often considered a low power form of immunity. In contrast, adaptive immunity is powerful, allowing it to target specific viruses and bacterias with a potent response.


For innate immunity, the immune system is unable to remember its response to a specific pathogen. Thus, the potency of the antibodies can vary, even if the antigens are the same.

Meanwhile, the immune system can remember its response when it comes to adaptive immunity. It will remember the pathogens, allowing them to respond with an equal level of potency.


Humans are not the only species with immune systems and forms of immunity. A wide variety of organisms have innate immunity, including mammals, insects, and plants.

These include snails

In comparison, the number of organisms that have adaptive immunity is more limited. While invertebrates can have innate immunity, only vertebrates can develop adaptive immunity.


Innate and adaptive are two different types of immunity, which both have different subsections.

There are different varieties of both innate and adaptive immunity. In regard to innate immunity, there are two main variations.

These are physical and internal barriers.

Physical innate immunity defends the body against pathogens. Examples of this immunity include skin, hair, mucus, and stomach acid.

Meanwhile, internal barriers include antibodies and cell-related responses.

Cell-mediated internal barriers are triggered by T cells, which are white blood cells that target specific particles.

Meanwhile, B cells trigger the humoral immune responses and mediate them.

As you can see, there are tons of differences between these two types of immunities. They have different functions and responses, which make them quite easy to distinguish from one another.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Function Of The Immune System?

The immune system is a vital part of the human body. It provides a system of protection, stopping the human body from being infected by invaders, such as bacteria.

These invaders, such as viruses, can conquer the body from a variety of sources.

This can include the digestive system. The immune system reacts with antibodies, which are blood proteins that target antigens.

Why Is It Named Adaptive Immunity?

The reason why adaptive immunity has this title is because of the immune system’s ability to adapt to its experience.

Whether these experiences are caused by vaccinations or illnesses, the immune system will respond to exposure by adapting and developing a new form of immunity.

What Is The Point Of White Blood Cells?

White blood cells are a vital part of the immune system. These cells are used to defend the human body from illnesses.

If an illness develops or a foreign material enters the body, white blood cells will be spread throughout the blood.

They form up a very small percentage of the blood in a human body.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this guide has helped you to better understand innate and adaptive immunity. While they may seem quite similar, there are several important distinctions between them.

These differences can be essential, so it is important to develop an understanding of them if you are interested in the field of biology.

Jennifer Dawkins

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