The primary function of neutrophils is phagocytosis, the ingestion and destruction of microorganisms or other foreign particles. For this reason, neutrophils are classified as phagocytes.
When a neutrophil is faced with a microorganism or foreign particle, phagocytosis begins. The following steps are carried out by the neutrophil during phagocytosis:
- The neutrophil extends pseudopods around the foreign material and engulfs it.
- Digestive enzymes present in the neutrophilic granules are released into the vacuole containing the foreign particle, and the particle is destroyed.
In most cases a mild infection enhances the function of neutrophils while a severe infection impairs their function.