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The Ongoing Medical Challenge of Immunodeficiency

The Ongoing Medical Challenge Of Immunodeficiency

Immunodeficiency is a relatively complex issue that simultaneously challenges and unites medical professionals from all around the world, as they seek answers for global health concerns.

Immunodeficiency surfaces in different kinds of health-related scenarios. In order to understand the various kinds of chronic conditions and diseases caused by immunodeficiency, we need to understand where the problem of immunodeficiency lies and what is actually happening to the human body.

What is immunodeficiency?

The immune system protects the human body from infection. It also plays an important role, with regard to healing the human body when it has become infected. When there is a problem with the immune system, immunodeficiency results.

Immunodeficiency is more commonly referred to as immune deficiency. In other words, for various reasons, the human body’s immune system is deficient and thus not able to resist or fight off infectious diseases, as the immune system either becomes compromised or is absent. (1)

Are there different kinds of immunodeficiency?

Yes. Understanding the chronic conditions and diseases related to immunodeficiency, is easier, when one distinguishes between the two different kinds of immune deficiency. The first is referred to as primary immune deficiency and the second is known as acquired immune deficiency. (2)

Think about this as being either something one inherits or is born with, as opposed to what is acquired throughout one’s lifetime.

What is primary immune deficiency?

When a person is born with an immune deficiency or a defect in the immune system, it is referred to as primary immunodeficiency or primary immune deficiency. (3)

There are approximately 80 primary immunodeficiencies that may be rare diseases that render a person more susceptible to infections from childhood onward. These are hereditary, autosomal recessive or X-linked. Their grouping is usually located in the part of the immune system that is malfunctioning, such as the lymphocytes or granulocytes. Primary immunodeficiencies are generally treated by antibody infusions, long term antibiotics and stem cell transplantation. (4)

What is acquired immunodeficiency?

Acquired immunodeficiency is more commonly referred to as secondary immunodeficiency. This is usually related to malnutrition, aging or medication and can include different kinds of health problems, that arise from the administration of chemotherapy, anti-rheumatic drugs, immunosuppressive drugs following transplants or glucocorticoids. (5)

In other words, some of these kinds of conditions are closely linked to a person’s diet. Other immunodeficiencies occur with aging, as the immune system gradually declines in term of being able to fight off different disease processes.

Suppression of the immune system can result from the administration of drugs or medication. This may be intentional suppression through the administration of medication, particularly when a person has had a transplant and the immune system would probably reject the transplant otherwise. Other immune deficiencies result when a drug has to be administered over long periods of time.

There are disease processes that impair the immune system and cause it to malfunction or shut down completely. This can happen in various kinds of cancer that involve the bone marrow and blood cells, like leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma and chronic infections. AIDS is another example of an acquired immunodeficiency. AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus. Here, the virus (HIV) attacks the T helper cells and impairs the immune system. (6)

It is now understood that AIDs originated in west-central Africa, possibly as early as the late nineteenth century, but the virus (HIV) was not identified as the cause of AIDS, until the 1980s. Infection by the AIDS virus (HIV) compromises vital organs in the immune system. The seriousness of AIDS/HIV should not be underestimated, as the spread of AIDS has already been declared a pandemic caused by the HIV virus by the World Health Organization. This serious disease is still being spread all over the world, by mucous membrane or blood contact with bodily fluids that contain the virus (HIV). (7)

The virus (HIV) may be transmitted through bodily fluids like blood, semen, vaginal fluid, pre-seminal fluid and breast milk. This means that it can also be spread through sexual contact, blood transfusions, the use of hypodermic needles or it may be transmitted between mothers and infants. (8)

While primary immunodeficiencies can be inherited and thus are not something that medical professionals can always predict or control, increased research and technological advances, show promise of possible resolution for many of these kinds of medical problems, particularly through the ongoing study of genetics.

Secondary immunodeficiencies may prove to be preventable and resolvable, at least to some extent. In a medical situation like AIDs/HIV, prevention entails increased public awareness and ongoing health education, to prevent the further spread of the disease. Can AIDS be eradicated entirely? That is a goal that medical professionals everywhere are striving towards.

The current H1N1 virus pandemic suggests that the immune system is affected by this virus as well. This is a serious heath concern at this time, because it is spreading rapidly and affecting people who are relatively young.

Chronic conditions and diseases caused by immunodeficiency will continue to be an ongoing medical challenge.

(1 ) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immunodeficiency

(2) Ibid.

(3) Ibid.

(4) Ibid.

(5) Ibid.

(6) Ibid.

(7) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AIDS

(8) Ibid.