Antibodies, also called immunoglobulins, are proteins synthesized by our immune system to combat foreign substances such as bacteria, viruses, or other agents capable of causing infections or diseases, potentially posing harm to the body.
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When the immune system is affected by illnesses or diseases such as a weakened immune system, immunodeficiency, or autoimmune disorders, it is unable to manufacture an appropriate quantity of functioning and healthy antibodies. As a result, pharmaceutical therapy to strengthen the immune system by giving antibodies externally becomes required. This method strengthens the immune system’s functioning, allowing it to handle chronic infections more efficiently.
Autoimmune illness arises when the body’s immune system fails to discriminate between native and foreign cells, resulting in an erroneous attack on healthy cells. As a result, the immune system’s antibodies, known as autoantibodies, are incapable of identifying hostile molecules and instead damage healthy cells.
IVIG, administered intravenously, is a medication specifically prescribed for individuals with autoimmune diseases and immunodeficiencies. Its purpose is to elevate the levels of beneficial antibodies within the body. In this blog post, we will explore the ways in which IVIG aids in managing chronic infections, addresses autoimmune diseases, and enhances overall immune system function.
What Is IVIG?
IVIG or intravenous immunoglobulin is a drug made of human-derived antibodies. It is taken from the blood of many healthy donors. IVIG is administered slowly through intravenous injection and is indicated for patients with antibody deficiency, autoimmune diseases, or immune deficiency disorders.
What Diseases Are Treated by IVIG?
In addition to autoimmune diseases, IVIG is used to treat many infectious, inflammatory, rheumatologic, neurological, and idiopathic conditions that involve the immune system, including:
- Kawasaki’s disease
- Inflammatory muscle diseases, like dermatomyositis, juvenile dermatomyositis, and polymyositis
- Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
- Immune thrombocytopenia, an immune deficiency disorder
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Multiple sclerosis or myasthenia gravis, a neurological autoimmune disorder
- Bone marrow transplants
IVIG and Chronic Infections – How IVIG Helps
Under normal circumstances, the human body’s immune system produces an adequate amount of healthy antibodies to combat infections and diseases. However, in individuals with compromised immune systems, the production of antibodies is insufficient, rendering them more susceptible to diseases and chronic infections.
Moreover, if your immune system is weak due to any autoimmune disease, it will be unable to make healthy antibodies and fight chronic infections occurring from bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens.
While IVIG is not primarily administered for the direct treatment of chronic infections, it is employed to address the root cause of such infections, such as immunodeficiency, a weakened immune system, or autoimmune disorders. As an adjunct therapy, IVIG plays a crucial role in treating chronic diseases by bolstering the immune system and introducing healthy antibodies via intravenous injection. Consequently, IVIG is frequently employed as an adjunct treatment for chronic infections.
Benefits of IVIG – IVIG and Chronic Infections
There are several benefits of IVIG for chronic infections because infections in the body caused by harmful pathogens are first addressed by the immune system. IVIG helps manage chronic infections in the following ways:
- It enhances antibody levels.
- It prevents infection-related complications and damage to organs.
- It reduces antibiotic use, which prevents long-term adverse effects and resistance.
- It strengthens the immune system.
- It improves the quality of life.
- It reduces hospitalizations due to severe chronic infections.
- It manages antibody deficiencies that make a person susceptible to chronic infections.
- It is used for individualized treatment.
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How Does IVIG Boost the Immune System?
IVIG boosts and strengthens the immune system in several ways, including:
The primary and foremost effect of IVIG that helps strengthen the immune system is antibody replacement. Healthy antibodies are the key players of the immune system that fights infections and foreign invaders. So, if they are deprived or dysfunctional, the immune system weakens.
IVIG is a concentrated dose of human-derived antibodies (immunoglobulin) that are given intravenously (through a vein). When healthy antibodies in sufficient amounts are administered intravenously, the therapy helps replace, replenish, and supplement the body’s own antibody levels.
The infusion of healthy intravenous antibodies improves the immune system’s ability to identify and combat foreign things such as bacteria, viruses, and infections.
IVIG can help balance and regulate the immune response. It also inhibits the effects of harmful components of the immune system, such as autoantibodies, which induce inflammation or mistakenly attack the body’s own healthy cells, leading to autoimmune diseases or certain inflammatory conditions.
Neutralization of Toxins
Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) contains immunoglobulin, which effectively neutralizes a wide range of toxins within the body. By neutralizing toxins produced by specific pathogens or bacteria, IVIG aids in reducing the severity of infections and mitigates potential harm to tissues and organs. As a result, it indirectly supports and enhances the overall function of the immune system. This toxin-neutralizing effect of IVIG proves particularly valuable when used as an additional treatment for chronic infections.
Reduction of Inflammation
Intravenous immunoglobulin serves a number of chronic immunological inflammatory disorders well because, in addition to its basic function, it has important anti-inflammatory qualities. Inhibition of inflammatory indicators and regulation of immune cells, which are key components of the inflammatory response, is part of its mechanism of action.
Does IVIG Have Side Effects?
There are some common side effects of IVIG that occur on the first dose of therapy or if you switch to another brand of IVIG, but they may be mild. They include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Chills or fever
- Lower back pain
- Irritation on the skin at the site of infusion
- Muscle aches
These adverse reactions may typically manifest within the first half hour of the infusion and can be treated by temporarily stopping or slowing the infusion. Consult the doctor immediately if you encounter the following adverse effects:
- Breathing difficulties
- Chest tightness
- Neck stiffness with severe headaches
- High-grade fever
- Vomiting that does not stop
- Severe rash
- Bleeding or swelling at the infusion site
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IVIG Immunomodulatory Dose
The immunomodulatory dose of IVIG therapy is typically administered as five daily doses of 400 mg/kg each intravenously. Repeated infusions of 2 g/kg at intervals of 4 to 6 weeks are frequently advised to maintain therapeutic response. The dose, however, may change according to the disease and condition of each patient.
This information is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about your medical condition prior to starting any new treatment. AmeriPharma Specialty Care assumes no liability whatsoever for the information provided or for any diagnosis or treatment made as a result, nor is it responsible for the reliability of the content.
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Dr. Martina Mikail, PharmD was born in Egypt and raised in Pennsylvania and California. She graduated from Marshall B. Ketchum University in May 2022. Dr. Mikail is a recipent of the USPS Leadership Award and the CSHP Leadership Award, and is an active member of CSHP, ASHP, and APhA. The most rewarding part of her job is educating patients and counseling them on medications. In her free time, she likes to cook, spend time with family, and read.