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A small white blood cell (leukocyte) that plays a large role in defending the body against disease.
Lymphocytes are responsible for immune responses. There are two main types of lymphocytes: B cells and T cells. The B cells make antibodies that attack bacteria and toxins while the T cells attack body cells themselves when they have been taken over by viruses or have become cancerous. Lymphocytes secrete products (lymphokines) that modulate the functional activities of many other types of cells and are often present at sites of chronic inflammation.
Your bone marrow constantly produces cells that will become lymphocytes. Some will enter your bloodstream, but most will move through your lymphatic system.
There are different kinds of B cells and T cells. These include:
- effector cells that are activated by antigens to fight an active infection
- memory cells that have been in your body long enough to recognize and “remember” past infections and go into action quickly if you become re-infected with an antigen
B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes work together to fight infection.