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What is Immunopathology?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2016
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Immunopathology is a subspecialty of clinical pathology which is focused on the role of the immune system in disease processes and the body's response to disease. Some nations do not recognize immunopathology as a separate clinical specialty, which means that immunopathologists may be treated simply as clinical pathologists with a focus on immunology topics. Training in immunopathology is offered at a number of universities around the world, along with research opportunities for people who are interested in expanding knowledge in this field.

An immunopathologist is interested in the role of the immune system in disease processes, looking at how the immune system responds to disease and where this response can go wrong. He or she is also interested in pathologies which involve the immune system, such as HIV infection, which leads to declines in immune function. Both areas of interest are important, providing information about how people respond to disease, how the immune system can go awry, and how immune problems can be treated.

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There are a number of career options for someone who has chosen to specialize in immunopathology. Some hospitals and clinics utilize these medical professionals to assist with diagnosis and the development of treatment plans, with the immunopathologist examining samples from a patient to determine what is causing his or her disease, and providing suggestions which could improve the patient's condition. An immunopathologist can also work for a government health agency, providing expertise which helps people respond to disease outbreaks and other emerging situations of concern.

Others work in teaching positions, educating doctors and medical professionals about immunopathology topics and procedures which are used in the lab to analyze samples and data. Immunopathologists can also work in labs, studying samples from patients and research subjects. Veterinary medicine also has many uses for immunopathologists, ranging from lab supervisors to government consultants. Immunopathology is also a subject of interest at many pharmaceutical companies, as companies want to understand the role of the immune system in disease to develop the most suitable drugs.

Also known as immunology and pathology, immunopathology is a field which is constantly expanding. It can incorporate cross disciplinary study, with researchers exploring factors like the roles of genetics, environment, and socioeconomic class in immune system health, looking at differing pathologies in various regions of the world to learn more about unique human populations, and working with people such as public health officials to develop public outreach programs to educate people about immunology topics.

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