At the start of the last century in the United Kingdom, only 24% of the 587,830 deaths registered were of individuals over 65, but by the end of the century these figures had changed markedly. Of the 558,052 deaths in 1997, 84% were in the population over 65. This "right shift" in the survival curve is projected to continue. The UK Government Actuary's Department forecast that by 2020, 11.75 million people (19% of the population) will be over 65 rising to 15.1 million people (25% of the population) by 2040. Older members of society show infections of the urinary tract, respiratory tract, skin, soft tissue or intra-abdominal region, infectious endocarditis, bacterial meningitis, tuberculosis, and herpes zoster, at a higher incidence than among younger adults. Moreover, mortality rates for these diseases are often 2-3 times higher among elderly patients than younger individuals with the same disease. The higher morbidity and mortality from these infections, plus the increased prevalence of specific cancers and certain autoimmune diseases point to an immune system deteriorating with age. At the core of the immune system are the T cells and this review analyses possible causes for the changes in T cell function that may account for the deterioration of the immune system. Any intervention to reverse the decline in the immune system must have a rational basis built on a hypothesis-driven inquiry, and one such intervention process is presented here.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Medical Laboratory Technology