Macrophages are white blood cells produced by the differentiation of monocytes in tissues.  Monocytes and macrophages are phagocytes. Macrophages function in both non-specific defense (innate immunity) as well as help initiate specific defense mechanisms (adaptive immunity) of vertebrate animals. Their role is to phagocytose (engulf and then digest) cellular debris and pathogens, either as stationary or as mobile cells. They also stimulate lymphocytes and other immune cells to respond to pathogens.

One important role of the macrophage is the removal of necrotic cellular debris in the lungs. When a macrophage ingests a pathogen, the pathogen becomes trapped in a phagosome, which then fuses with a lysosome. Within the phagolysosome, enzymes and toxic peroxides digest the pathogen. However, some bacteria, such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, have become resistant to these methods of digestion.