The Ecologies of Human Immune Function Thomas W. McDade
Immune function is notoriously complex, and current biomedical research elaborates this complexity by focusing on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that characterize immune defenses. However, the human immune system is a product of natural selection that develops and functions in whole organisms that are integral parts of their surrounding environments. A population-level, cross-cultural, adaptationist perspective is therefore a necessary complement to the micro levels of analysis currently favored by biomedical immunology.
Prior ﬁeld-based research on human immunity is reviewed to demonstrate the relevance of cultural ecological factors, with an emphasis on the ecologies of nutrition, infectious disease, reproduction, and psychosocial stress. Common themes and anthropological contributions are identiﬁed in an attempt to promote future research in human ecological immunology that integrates theory and method for a more contextualized understanding of this important physiological system.