Difference Between Humoral and Cell-Mediated Immunity


Immunity or the immune system is a vital part of a body that protects and defends the body against viruses, bacteria, and infections. The immune system is made up of a complex network of proteins and cells that uniquely fights pathogens.

Our immune system consists of active immunity that, right after spotting antigens, attack them and helps maintain the immunity and health of the body. The two active immunities are:

·       Humoral immunity

·       Cell-mediated immunity

Both the immunities work quickly against infections, but their way of targeting and destroying the pathogens varies. To get yourself familiar with the two active immunities, their differences, and similarities, read out this article till the end, as there is a lot to learn throughout the article.

What is Humoral Immunity

Humoral immunity, also called an antibody-mediated response, works by identifying antigens in the blood circulation or lymph in the body. Antigens are basically substances that might produce antibodies against the immune system. So humoral immunity works against those antibodies to stop them from causing any damage.

Humoral immunity is associated with the B cells to identify the foreign particles. Along with B cells, the antibody-mediated response takes assistance with the interleukins or helper T cells and get differentiated into the cells that might produce antibodies, usually the plasma B cells.

Humoral immunity is a vital part of the body as it quickly fights pathogens. It is classified as the major defence mechanism that tries to harm the immune system with the help of antibodies produced by the B cells that binds with antigens to neutralize the external attack.

After fighting against the antigens, the B cells produce memory cells in the body that helps by providing future immunity against the similar antigen if it attacks the body again. Thus, Humoral immunity not only works in fighting against the antigen but prepares the body for defence in the future against similar kind of attack by extracellular microbes.

What is Cell-Mediated Immunity

Cell-mediated immunity, also known as cellular immunity, works by further destroying the infected cells by the antigen attack. It releases cytokines that help activate the T cells in the bone marrow that matures in the thymus. The activated T cells circulate in the blood and lymphoid tissue.

The helper T cells release cytokines that activate the T cells, fighting against the pathogens and killing them from the body.

The antigens presenting cells (APC) carries antigens on their surface along with the presence of a major histocompatibility complex (MHC). The MHC molecules are formed due to the attack of antigens which are fought by humoral immunity and are broken down.

The T cells are then activated by the cytokines released by the helper T cells. The T cells will bind with major histocompatibility complex (MHC) and differentiate into cytotoxic T cells. The infected cells then undergo destruction, commonly known as lysis.

Cell-mediated immunity also works as a defence system and fights against intercellular pathogens. The immunity responds to all type of cells that have MHC, including tumour cells, pathogens, or transplanted cells.

The Difference Table

CharacteristicsHumoral immunityCell-mediated immunity
ComponentsT cells, B cells, and macrophagesMacrophages, natural killer cells, helper T cells, and cytotoxic T cells
PathogensWork against extracellular pathogensWork against intercellular pathogens
DetectorsAntibodies and PhagocytesMHC molecules and receptors
ReceptorsB-cells receptorsT-cells receptors
ActionQuick actionComparatively delayed action
Protects againstextracellular viral pathogens or bacteriaIntercellular bacterial pathogens, viruses, and fungus
SecretionSecretes antibodiesSecrets cytokines
HypersensitivityType I, II, and IIIType IV


Cell-mediated immunity and humoral immunity have many differences, but still, their primary function is the same, that is, to act as a defence in the body against extracellular and intracellular viruses, bacteria, and fungus.

There are other similarities as well between the two that are mentioned below:

·       Humoral and cell-mediated immunity possess immunological memories.

·       Both actively works against different kinds of pathogens and keep the immune system safe.

·       Cell-mediated and humoral immunity is not effective where the body has low immunity.

·       Both are active immunities.

·       The two have a lag period.


Both humoral immunity and cell-mediated immunity are vital part of the body and immune system. They work step by step to protect the body from an external attack called antigens. They both are the active immune system that is ready to fight with pathogens inside the body.

Humoral immunity works quickly against the pathogen and fights with it. Cell-mediated immunity starts working later and fights against the infected cells by breaking the cell.

Both immunities have similarities as well as differences. The differences lie in terms of their way of fighting against pathogens. Humoral immunity starts working rapidly against the antigen, whereas cell-mediated immunity works by destroying the cells and ultimately completely destroys the pathogen from the body.

The defence system not only works by fighting against the pathogens but also prepares the body for any future attack by a similar external attack.

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