Disorders Of Immune System

Category : 12th Class

Allergies : Allergy is the hypersensitiveness of a person to some foreign substance coming in contact with or entering the body. The substances that cause allergic reaction are called allergens. The common allergens are dust, pollen mould, spores, fabrics, lipsticks, nail paints, feathers, fur, plants, bacteria, foods, heat, cold, sunlight.

Symptoms : The symptoms that result from an allergy may be of different kinds but mostly it affects the skin and mucous membrane. Hay fever affects the mucous membranes of the nose, eyes and upper respiratory tracts. In asthma, the lower portions of the respiratory system are severely affected. In eczema the skin becomes red, followed by the appearance of minute blisters. Eczema may affect any part of the body and is one of the most severest of all allergic symptoms.

Cause : During allergic reaction there is increased release of histamine from mast cells. It causes marked dilation of all the peripheral blood vessels and the capillaries become highly permeable so that large amounts of fluid leak out from the blood into the tissues.

(1) Hay fever : In this allergic form, there is swollen, reddened, running eyes and nose. The drugs called antihistamines are of major importance in the treatment of this allergic disorder.

(2) Asthma : The tissue surrounding the respiratory tubes in the lungs swell up and compress the tubes. Hence there is difficulty in breathing. Antihistamine drugs are also given in this disease.

(3) Anaphylactic shock : It is an allergic reaction involving all the tissues of the body and occurs in a few minutes after the injection of an antigen such as penicillin. Such a reaction is very serious. Histamine released from ruptured mast cells causes marked dilation of all the arteries so that a large amount of fluid is passed from the blood to the tissues and there is a drastic fall in blood pressure. The affected person may become unconscious and the individual may die within a short time.

Autoimmunity : Sometimes it may also happen that the immune system of the body goes off the track and starts behaving against the ‘own body’ or ‘self’. This leads to a variety of diseases known as autoimmune diseases. This type of diseases depends on which type of ‘self-antigen’ is involved. When the cells acting as antigens in the same body, they are called autoantigens. The nature of autoimmune diseases depends on the autoantigens involved. For example, if the autoantigens are RBC then the body destroys its own RBC, resulting in chronic anaemia; if the autoantigens are muscle cells then it results in the destruction of its own muscles resulting in severe weakness (myasthenia gravis); if the autoantigens are liver cells, then it results in chronic hepatitis, etc. Other autoimmune diseases are insulin-dependent diabetes, Addison’s disease, ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Immuno deficiencies

(1) Severe Combined Immuno deficiency (SCID) : Sometimes new born children are without T-cells and B-cells. These children are highly susceptible to various infections. The most serious disorder of this type is a congenital disease known as severe combined immuno deficiency (SCID) in which both B-cells and T-cells are not present in the body. Such children are highly susceptible even to minor infections. In developed countries like U.S.A. such children are kept alive by keeping them in germ-free environments called isolation suits.


Autoimmune Disorders

S.No. Disorder


Antibodies Against



Lower back pain

Kidney cell antigens that resemble Strep bacteria antigens


Grave disease

Restilessness,    Weight loss,irritability,

Increased heart rate  and Blood pressure

Thyroid gland antigens near thyroid stimulating hormone receptor, causing overactivity


Juvenile diabetes

Thirst, hunger, weakness, emaciation

Pancreatic beta cells


Hemolytic anemia

Fatigue and weakness

Red blood cells


Myasthenia gravis

Muscle weakness

Receptors for nerve messages on skeletal muscle


Pernicious anemia

Fatigue and weakness

Binding site for vitamin B on cells lining stomach


Rheumatic fever

Weakness, shortness of breath

Heart cell antigens that resemble Strep bacteria antigens


Rheumatoid arthritis

Joint pain and deformity

Cells lining joints



Thick, hard, pigmented skin patches

Connective tissue cells


Systemaic lupus erythamtosus

Red rash on face, prolonged fever, weakness, kidney damage

DNA, neurons, blood cells


Ulcerative colitis

Lower abdominal pain

Colon cells


(2) Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) : It is a disorder of cell mediated immune system of the body. There is a reduction in the number of helper T-cells which stimulate antibody production by B-cells. This results in the loss of natural defence against viral infection.

Discovery : AIDS was first noticed in USA homosexuals in 1981. Virus of AIDS was isolated and identified by Prof. Luc Montagnier in France in 1983 and almost the same time by Prof. Robert Gallo in USA. AIDS infections were detected in India for the first time in prostitutes of Chennai in 1986.

In India, four AIDS reference centres have been established.

(i) A.I.I.M.S., New Delhi.

(ii) National Institute of communicable Diseases, New Delhi,

(iii) National Institute of Virology, Pune.

(iv) Centre for Advanced Research on Virology, CMC, Vellore.

Symptoms of AIDS : An HIV infection can be divided into 3 stages.

(1) Asymptomatic Carrier : Only \[1%-2%\] of those newly infected have mononucleosis-like symptoms that may include fever, chills, aches, swollen lymph glands, and an itchy rash. These symptoms disappear, and there are no other symptoms for 9 months or longer. Although the individual exhibits no symptoms during this stage. He or she is highly infectious. The standard HIV blood test for the presence of antibody becomes positive during this stage.

(2) AIDS Related Complex (ARC) : The most common symptom of ARC is swollen lymph glands in the neck, armpits, or groin that persist for 3 months or more. There is severe fatigue unrelated to exercise or drug use; unexplained persistent or recurrent fevers, often with night sweats; persistent cough not associated with smoking, a cold, or the flu; and persistent diarrhoea. Also possible are signs of nervous system impairment, including loss of memory, inability to think clearly, loss of judgment, and/or depression.

When the individual develops non-life threatening and recurrent infections such as thrush or herpes simplex, it is a signal that full-blown AIDS will occur shortly.

(3) Full-Blown AIDS : In this final stage, there is severe weight loss and weakness due to persistent diarrhoea and usually one of several opportunistic infections is present. These infections are called opportunistic because the body can usually prevent them - only an impaired immune system gives them the opportunity to get started. These infections include the following -

(i) Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia : There is not a single documented case of this type of pneumonia in persons with normal immunity.

(ii) Toxoplasmic encephalitis : In AIDS patients, this infection leads to loss of brain cells, seizures, and weakness.

(iii) Myobacterium avium : This is an infection of the bone marrow that leads to a decrease in red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

(iv) Kaposi’s Sarcoma : A cancer of the blood vessels that causes reddish purple, coin-size spots and lesions on the skin.

Treatment of AIDS : The drug zidovudine (also called azidothymidine, or AZT) and dideoxyinosine (DDI) prevent HIV reproduction in cells. Proteases are enzymes HIV needs to bud from the host cell; researchers are hopeful that a protease inhibitor drug will soon be available.

A number of different types of vaccines are in, or are expected to be in, human trials. Several of these are sub unit vaccines that utilize genetically engineered proteins that resemble those found in HIV. For example, HIV-1, the cause of most AIDS cases has an outer envelop molecule called GP 120. When GP 120 combines with a CD4 molecule that projects from a helper T lymphocyte, the virus enters the cell. There are sub unit vaccines that make use of GP 120. An entirely different approach is being taken by Jonas Salk, who developed the polio vaccine. His vaccine utilizes whole HIV-1 killed by treatment with chemicals and radiation. So far, this vaccine has been found to be effective against experimental HIV-1 infection in chimpanzees, and clinical trials will occur soon.

AIDS Prevention : Shaking hands, hugging, social kissing, coughing or sneezing and swimming in the same pool do not transmit the AIDS virus. You cannot get AIDS from inanimate objects such as toilets, doorknobs, telephones, office machines, or household furniture.

HIV has been isolated from semen cervical secretions, lymphocytes, plasma, cerebrospinal fluid, tears, saliva, urine and breast milk. The secretions known to be especially infectious are semen, cervical secretions, blood and blood products. Infection is spread :

(1) By sexual intercourse, vaginal and anal

(2) By infected blood, blood products, donated semen and organs

(3) By contaminated needles used :

(i) During the treatment of patients

(ii) When drug abusers share needles

(4)  From an infected mother to her child :

(i) Across the placenta before birth

(ii) While the baby is passing through the birth canal

(iii) Possibly by breast milk

The following behaviour will help prevent the spread of AIDS

(1) Do not use alcohol or drugs in a way that prevents you from being in control of your behaviour. Especially, do not inject drugs into veins, but if you are an intravenous drug user and cannot stop your behaviour, always use a sterile needle for injection or one cleansed by bleach.

(2) Refrain from multiple sex partners, especially with homosexual or bisexual men or intravenous drug users of either sex. Either abstain from sexual intercourse or develop a long-term monogamous (always the same partner) sexual relationship with a partner who is free of HIV and is not an intravenous drug user.

(3) If you uncertain about your partner, always use a latex condom. Follow the directions, and also use a spermicide containing nonoxynol-9, which kills viruses and virus-infected lymphocytes. The risk of contracting AIDS is greater in persons who already have a sexually transmitted disease.

Diagnosis : Once the host is infected by HIV. HIV detected by the ELISA Test. (Enzyme–linked immunosarbent assay a positive Elisa should be can firmed using another test called the western blot test.

Hepatitis : It is a liver inflammation caused by virus, use of many drugs, chemicals and alcohol. Hepatitis may be of following types:

Hepatitis A : It is caused by Hepatitis A virus. It is transmitted through infected food, water, clothes and faecaes. It may occur in epidemic form especially in areas where hygiene is poor. This virus does not damage liver cells.

Hepatitis B : It is caused by Hepatitis B virus. It is transmitted by infected food and blood products; such as plasma or by medical instruments contaminated with infected blood. It results in the swelling of liver cells.

Hepatitis is also caused by poisonous chemicals, alcohol, as a side effect of certain drugs and from severe amoebiasis.

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