In what (common) diseases does having a strong immune system make no difference?

A friend of mine believes that having a strong immune system (from general health and being exposed to germs, as opposed to being in clean rooms all the time) always makes a difference in illness. I didn’t question him at the time on what exactly he meant (what types of disease, whether he meant catching or recovering from them once you had it), but I was wondering about them nonetheless. For example, sure, it makes a difference with colds, but what about the flu?

So what common cases are there where having a good immune system makes no significant positive difference? What types of cases, and do you mean catching or recovering)? Feel free to ignore hereditary and trauma-related conditions, and to concentrate on relatively common communicable diseases, if appropriate. Like I said, I don’t know what exactly he meant; it was a throwaway comment right before we parted ways for the night.

Off the top of my head, it seems those diseases which are not caused by living organisms would have the most resistance to an immune system. For example, “Black lung disease, also known as Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), is caused by long exposure to coal dust. It is a common affliction of coal miners and others who work with coal, similar to both silicosis from inhaling silica dust, and to the long-term effects of tobacco smoking. Inhaled coal dust progressively builds up in the lungs and is unable to be removed by the body; that leads to inflammation, fibrosis, and in the worst case, necrosis.'”

Since the [insert type of] dust is unable to be removed from the lungs, no matter how much of an immune system is floating around the body, the benefits would be mitigated.

Another example of this would be Minamata disease, which is a result of severe mercury poisoning.

Ah, true. Then I guess restrict it there, too, in addition to what I said above? Hmm.

I felt compelled to throw in something like Athlete’s foot. There’s not much to do but keep your feet dry and apply some sort of topical treatment. Without that, what does your body do to combat it by itself?

Any disease which provokes your immune system to produce too big of a response (cytokine storm?), which can cause life-threatening problems. The stronger the immune system, the more severe the problems.

It’s hard to know the infectiousness rate of many diseases- if you were exposed and your immune system fought it off before it could take hold, you would probably never know. I do know that rabies is presumed to be 100% infectious: if you’re bitten, you will get it without treatment.

Hmm, how about a specific question: now that I’m thinking about it, I really do wonder about the flu. It seems to me that it MUST be one of those things where your immune system (assuming you have no antibodies) makes no difference against it - otherwise, there’d be less/no need for vaccines!

Where is my logic mistaken, if at all?

There’s no way to know beforehand whether someone will shrug off invading flu viruses and never get sick, who will have minor symptoms, who will have severe symptoms, and who might actually die from it. And aside from individual protection another reason for vaccination is to dampen the spread of the virus to begin with: fewer susceptible people to spread it.

But surely one of the characteristics that define the term “strong immune system” is the range of diseases it throws off. Your friend wins because he has a circular definition.

Yeah, but I was also wondering if this is even possible. I’ve never heard of an immune system doing this with the flu.

I suppose. But my point of interest is how far “everything” goes.

Erm. Aren’t flu vaccines supposed to get your immune system up to scratch for the current batch of flu?

AFAIK, the big problem with flu is that it mutates so quickly that vaccines only work for about a year before a sufficiently different strain is going around.

Yes. My point, made in an earlier post, is that I was under the impression that without the vaccine, your immune system is helpless against the flu. If it infects you, you get the flu, period. IOW, the strength of your immune system, sans vaccine (and its introduction of “foreign” antibodies), is irrelevant against the flu. That’s what I meant.

The problem with the flu is that it mutates, and there are different strains circulating each year. And the mutations are usually enough that your immune system does not recognize this years’ strain of the flu as the same flu it fought off in a few days last year. And since it does not recognize it as a disease, it does not attack it until too late, when it has already spread through your body and you are sick from the symptoms.

Some people may have been exposed to a closely-related strain of the flu before, so their immune system does recognize this new strain, and attacks it quickly enough that those people do not ‘come down’ with the flu, despite exposure. Does that make their immune system ‘stronger’, or just more experienced in dealing with this specific disease?

I don’t think the question is very well defined. It’s hard to talk about the ‘strength’ of an immune system in a general way, but only in response to specific diseases,

Rabies is 100% (ok, really like 99.99999999%) lethal when contracted, but as far as I know it isn’t 100% infectious.

In fact, in the Spanish flu epidemic of 1917, a good immune system was an issue. Those who were young with excellent immune systems, like soldiers, were most at risk for dying of the flu. The reason for this is that when the immune system, specifically T-cells, fights the flu there is fluid produced. Since the flu virus was in the lungs, the more T-cells, the more fluid in the lungs, and thus greater risk of death. Source - my wife who wrote a book on the flu. She got paid, but it never got published when the avian flu petered out.

Are you saying that nobody has any immunity against the flu unless vaccinated? That seems most unlikely. I have never had flu - I assume I have natural immunity.

Actualy, that is not quite true. Back in the late 70s there was a strain of flu that had the unusual symptom of causing pain when you moved your eyes. I had a very slight pain when moving my eyes. Without this unusual symptom, I would never have noticed. Also once a doctor ran a test that told me I had a mild case of flu when I could detect no symptoms.

From this, I deduce that I probably do get the flu, but have an immune system that is so effective against it that I normally never notice.

If your immune system was helpless against the flu I don’t think you would recover from it. You would die instead.

I think what was meant was that your immune system could not prevent you from contracting a novel strain of flu. Once contracted it will certainly kick in, its lethality would then depend on your general health and resilience, ie the “strength” of your immune system that has been mentioned but not defined in this thread.

Maybe mental illnesses like bi-polar disease or depression?

Sorry, I guess this is hereditary.

how about kidney stones?