In my patient with a serious infection, when should I worry about a primary immunodeficiency disorder?

You may consider a primary immunodeficiency disorder (PID) when 2 or more of the following “warning signs” are present: 1

  • ≥ 4 ear infections in 1 year
  • ≥ 2 serious sinus infections in 1 year
  • ≥ 2 pneumonias in 1 year
  • Recurrent, deep skin or organ abscesses
  • Persistent thrush in mouth or persistent fungal infection on the skin
  • ≥ 2 deep-seated infections, including septicemia
  • ≥ 2 months on antibiotics with little effect
  • Need for IV antibiotics to clear infections
  • Failure of an infant to gain weight or grow normally
  • Family history of primary immunodeficiency

Other infectious conditions that may be a clue to PID include those in unusual locations (eg, pneumococcal arthritis) or caused by unusual pathogens (eg, Pneumocystis jirovecii).

Among non-infectious conditions, history of granulomas in multiple organs, early-onset eczema refractory to therapy, and autoimmunity (eg, autoimmune cytopenias, autoimmune thyroiditis, celiac disease, vitiligo, type I diabetes mellitus) may also be potential clues.2

But before you embark on searching for PID,  rule out local barrier disorders of the skin or mucosa (eg, foreign body, bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis) and secondary causes of immunodeficiency (eg, HIV), syndromes of protein loss/deficiency (eg, cirrhosis, nephrotic syndrome, malnutrition), splenectomy, malignancy, and medications (eg, steroids, chemotherapy, tumor necrosis factor inhibitors).2

Final Fun Fact: Did you know that PID affects 1 in 1,200 people in the US? 3

References:

  1. Arkwright PD, Gennery AR. Ten warning signs of primary immunodeficiency: a new paradigm is needed for the 21st century. Ann N Y Acad Sci 2011; 1238:7-14 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2011.06206.x/abstract
  2. Hausmann O, Warnatz K. Immunodeficiency in adults a practical guide for the allergist. Allergo J Int. 2014; 23: 261–268 https://link-springer-com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/article/10.1007/s40629-014-0030-4
  3. Boyle JM, Buckley RH. Population prevalence of diagnosed primary immunodeficiency diseases in the United States. J Clin Immunol 2007; 27:497  https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10875-007-9103-1

 

Contributed by Yousef Badran, MD, Mass General Hospital, Boston, MA.

In my patient with a serious infection, when should I worry about a primary immunodeficiency disorder?

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