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Immune Suppressants – An Overview

Posted Aug 01 2012 8:17am


Almost every part of the human body, apart from the entire human body itself, have some amazing facts linked to them.

For example, did you know that your entire immune system can be transferred to another human being?

Yet another interesting fact that has recently emerged is that "stress" damages the immune system while laughter and relaxation does just the opposite, and scientists are not able to tell why this is so.

What is for certain is that if we did not have the immune system, we would not live for very long yet in certain circumstances, our immune system works against, and not for us.

And which is why immune suppressants are usually administered when faced with such a difficult situation… even if it turns out to be a necessary evil.

A Note on Immune Suppressants

The need for immune suppressants arises in the case of auto-immune diseases, and also in the case of an organ transplant, where the immune system can attack the organ as soon as the surgery is complete.

As the name suggests, immune suppressants are used to suppress the immune system from causing any damage yet in medical terms, their function is to reduce the activation and efficacy of the immune system.

The patient, either in the situation of an organ transplant or when suffering from an auto-immune disease, finds him "immunocompromised", and sometimes can lose his or her life, if an infection occurs.

In fact, this has happened in the past

And why is this so?

Because the immune system will shut down, thanks to these drugs, and therefore, the body won't be protected when under attack by an infection.

Hence, the term, necessary evil and in some of the aforementioned cases, self-defeating too.

Yet unfortunately, it is the only way by which auto-immune diseases as well as organ transplants can be handled safely. But that's not the only problem – these drugs also cause side-effects…

So, let's look at the types of immune suppressants that are used today.

Types of Immune Suppressants

Immune suppressant drugs are of two types: internal and external. An example of the former is testosterone while the latter are the drugs that are administered to patients, and will discussed shortly.

External drugs are further classified into four types, and here they are:

#1: Glucocorticoids – Used to suppress allergic, anti-inflammatory and auto-immune diseases.

#2: Cytostatics – Used for the treatment of malignant diseases.

#3: Antibodies – Used as a quick and strong form of immunotherapy in order to prevent acute rejection reactions.

#4: Drugs acting on immunophilins – Ciclosporin,Tacrolimus, Voclosporin and Sirolimus are some of the most commonly used drugs as calcineurin inhibitors.

Another aspect to remember, as a doctor and which you already might be aware of, is the fact that you have to be very careful about the kind of medication that is administered along with these drugs.

The reason: some of them can react adversely to immune suppressants, and can even be fatal.

Interestingly, people are usually asked to avoid any food that is based on the principle of probiotics for the very same reason.

In Closing

And despite the obvious hazards that are involved with using immune suppressants, you still have to understand that it is a necessary evil…

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