ImmunodeficiencyIf you experience more than usual recurrent infection, had a life-threatening infection, had an unusual infection with organisms you should not be getting, or have unsatisfactory response to antibiotic treatment for your infection, you probably would benefit from an immunologic work-up to screen for an underlying immunodeficiency.

Q: What is immunodeficiency ?

A: An immunodeficiency result from a problem intrinsic to the immune system. This can be either a disorder intrinsic to the immune cells or to secondary disorder such as drugs, infections, medical conditions, among others. The immune system have many arms to fight infections it encounter. A deficiency in one of those arms will predispose the individual to certain kind of infections.

Q: Is immunodeficiency necessarily secondary to infection with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)?

A: No. There are thousands of patients with immunodeficiency whom their disease have nothing to do with HIV infection. Indeed, HIV cause a certain type of immunodeficiency usually different from the infections encountered by patients with immunodeficiency resulting from an intrinsic problems to their immune cells. An intrinsic problem to the immune cells leading to immunodeficiency have nothing to do with HIV infection.

Q: Are there many forms of immunodeficiency?

A: Yes. There are many forms of immunodeficiency and while some are very severe and life-threatening, many are milder but still important enough to cause recurrent or severe infections.

Q: Do i have i immunodeficiency?

A: People with immunodeficiency get the same type of infections that other people get, including ear infections, sinusitis and pneumonia. The difference is that their infections occur more frequently, are often more severe, and have a greater risk of complications. The infections usually respond poorly to antibiotics and frequently need many courses of antibiotics each year to stay healthy. Those patients may also develop infections of certain body areas, such as the bones, joints, liver, heart or brain.

Q: What is meant by frequent infections?

A: General guidelines for determining if a patient may be experiencing too many infections are:

  • The need for more than four courses of antibiotic treatment per year in children or more than two times per year in adults.
  • The occurrence of more than four new ear infections in one year after 4 years of age.
  • The development of pneumonia twice over any time.
  • The occurrence of more than three episodes of bacterial sinusitis in one year or the occurrence of chronic sinusitis.
  • The need for preventive antibiotics to decrease the number of infection.
  • Any unusually severe infection or infections caused by bacteria that do not usually cause problems in most people at the patient's age.

Q: What should i do if me or someone i know have any of the conditions above?

A: If you have any of the conditions noted above, you should see an allergist & clinical immunologist who will see if you need to be evaluated for immunodeficiency. If an immunodeficiency is detected, early treatment prevents complications of infections that then contribute to making other infections worse and more difficult to treat. Nearly all cases of death due to immunodeficiency are related to lack of treatment. Currently, available treatment leads to prolonged survival, lessened frequency and severity of infections, and may delay or prevent occurrence of complications.