Immunodeficiency Virus Information

There are many causes of human immunodeficiency disorders. Immunodeficiency disorders occur when the body’s immune response is reduced or completely absent. When the individual’s immune system is already defective at birth, it is called primary immunodeficiency. When the immunodeficiency occurs later in life or from a known cause, it is termed secondary immunodeficiency.

Our Body’s Immune system

The immune system is made of a number of organs such as the spleen, lymph nodes, thymus and bone marrow. These organs secrete a variety of cells which protect the body against everything that the body perceives as foreign. The immune system is vital for all humans to survive. The cells in the immune system can help protect the body against a variety of harmful organisms such as viruses, bacteria, cancer cells and foreign substances (allergens). When the immune system detects anything foreign, it quickly reacts and destroys the offender. The immune system is quite complex and has a long memory.

However, there are times when the immune system does not function well. There are rare disorders some infants are born with, that cause problem in their immune system. These infants often have no ability to fight off simple infections like the common cold. Many of these children need to be kept in isolation and often require bone marrow transplants. Bone marrow transplants in some cases can cure the disorder but getting a matching bone marrow donor is often complicated.

Causes of Immunodeficiency

Secondary causes of immunodeficiency are usually seen in adulthood. People who use long-term corticosteroids do become immunodeficient and are quite prone to infections. The corticosteroids suppress the body’s ability to create “immune cells”, which can fight infection. Individuals who receive transplants are often treated with potent immunosuppressive drugs so that the body does not reject the organs. In turn, the drugs also make the individual quite prone to a variety of infections. People with cancers who receive anticancer drugs also develop a suppression of their immune system and are prone to infections. Besides drugs, the other common causes of immune suppression are malnutrition, diabetes, and certain cancers. People who have had their spleen removed are also at high risk for infection.

Overall, the most common cause of secondary immunodeficiency in adults is the immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The immunodeficiency virus has a great affinity for T cells and often destroys them. Over time, the body has no capacity to fight off infections. When the number of white cells drops, the body is very susceptible to a variety of opportunistic infections.

The diagnosis of immunodeficiency syndromes is not difficult but does require extensive testing. However, the treatment is quite complex depending on the cause. In most cases of human immunodeficiency, treatment is required to prevent complications from a variety of infections.

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