Medications That Weaken Your Immune System And Fungal Infections
Overall, most serious fungal infections are rare, but they do happen. They are most common among people with weak immune systems. People with certain health conditions may need to take medications with side effects that can weaken your immune system and put you at risk for fungal infections.
Specifically, corticosteroids and TNF inhibitors are two types of medications that can increase your chances of getting a fungal infection.1
- Corticosteroids are medications that treat conditions including arthritis, asthma, allergic reactions, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus, sarcoidosis, or inflammatory bowel disease.
- TNF inhibitors are medications that treat autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Some fungal infections can be serious, such as:
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General Precautions For People With Respiratory Conditions
General tips for those with chronic respiratory illnesses such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease , idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and cystic fibrosis include the following:
- Take your medication as prescribed and manage your symptoms as well as you can.
- Get the flu shot. If you have flu symptoms call your doctor. There are treatments for the flu. However, a flu shot will not protect you against COVID-19.
- Get the pneumococcal vaccine if recommended by your provider. This will also not protect you against COVID-19, though.
- If you smoke, theres never been a better time to stop. Smoking will increase your risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.
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Nih Scientists Find Link Between Allergic And Autoimmune Diseases In Mouse Study
Scientists at the National Institutes of Health, and their colleagues, have discovered that a gene called BACH2 may play a central role in the development of diverse allergic and autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and type-1 diabetes. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system attacks normal cells and tissues in the body that are generally recognized as self and do not normally trigger immune responses. Autoimmunity can occur in infectious diseases and cancer.
The results of previous research had shown that people with minor variations in the BACH2 gene often develop allergic or autoimmune diseases, and that a common factor in these diseases is a compromised immune system. In this study in mice, the Bach2 gene was found to be a critical regulator of the immune systems reactivity. The study, headed by researchers at the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases , both part of NIH, and their colleagues appeared online in Nature, June 2, 2013.
The finding that a single component of the immune system plays such a broad role in regulating immune function may explain why people with allergic and autoimmune diseases commonly have alterations in the BACH2 gene, said NCI researcher Rahul Roychoudhuri, M.D. “This may be the first step in developing novel therapies for these disorders.”
NIHTurning Discovery Into Health®
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Asthma And The Hygiene Theory
Other factors that can predispose a person to atopic diseases is the lack of contact with substances that build a healthy immune response. It a hypothesis referred to as the “hygiene theory.”
The hygiene theory posits that an industrialized lifestylecharacterized by better sanitation, greater infection control, and frequent antibiotic usedeprives a child of exposure to microbes needed to build a robust immune response.
One such example is the avoidance of peanuts in young children, an action that can increase the risk of a peanut allergy. By contrast, exposing a baby to peanuts before 6 months decreases the risk.
In a similar vein, studies have shown that living on a farm from birth decreases the risk of asthma. This suggests that contact with animals, including pets, can be protective against asthma by exposing the immune system to pet dander, bacteria, and other microbes at an early age.
All Medications Have Side Effects
Response from Leon Lebowitz, RRT
It should be noted that all medications come with a veritable laundry list of side effects that may be experienced by some patients using them. Inhalers are no exception. However, the systemic absorption of aerosolized steroids is considered to be minimal. This means that only minuscule amounts of the aerosolized steroid medication are getting into the bloodstream.
For aerosols, less medication is needed since the aerosol is delivered directly to the lung specifically. As an example, the dose of inhaled steroids is measured in micrograms as compared to milligrams , which is the unit of measure for oral steroids. A microgram is one thousand times smaller than a milligram.
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Why Does The Immune System Attack The Body
Doctors dont know exactly what causes the immune-system misfire. Yet some people are more likely to get an autoimmune disease than others.
According to a 2014 study, women get autoimmune diseases at a rate of about 2 to 1 compared to men 6.4 percent of women vs. 2.7 percent of men. Often the disease starts during a womans childbearing years .
Some autoimmune diseases are more common in certain ethnic groups. For example, lupus affects more African-American and Hispanic people than Caucasians.
Certain autoimmune diseases, like multiple sclerosis and lupus, run in families. Not every family member will necessarily have the same disease, but they inherit a susceptibility to an autoimmune condition.
Because the incidence of autoimmune diseases is rising, researchers suspect environmental factors like infections and exposure to chemicals or solvents might also be involved.
A Western diet is another suspected risk factor for developing an autoimmune disease. Eating high-fat, high-sugar, and highly processed foods is thought to be linked to inflammation, which might set off an immune response. However, this hasnt been proven.
A 2015 study focused on another theory called the hygiene hypothesis. Because of vaccines and antiseptics, children today arent exposed to as many germs as they were in the past. The lack of exposure could make their immune system prone to overreact to harmless substances.
What It Means To Be Immunocompromised
As any new mom would, Erin Anthony worried about germs before the coronavirus outbreak.
Now, the 21-year-old mother of 6-month-old twin boys said shes absolutely terrified of how fast the respiratory virus can spread.
One of Anthonys sons is in a Dallas facility receiving treatment for multiple conditions, including tracheomalacia, which causes his airway to narrow or collapse while breathing. He breathes through a tracheostomy tube in his throat that connects to his windpipe instead of through his nose and mouth.
It classifies him as immunocompromised, a group of people the Centers for Disease Control deems the most vulnerable to coronavirus.
Usually a normal person that doesnt have a has a natural filter in their nose so you can filter out the toxins or germs naturally, Anthony said. With a , its completely bypassed and you dont have that natural filter, so your lungs are way more susceptible to having infections.
Since cases appeared in Texas, the Dallas facility where Anthonys son is being treated has limited visits to caregivers. For him, that means only his parents. The News is not identifying her son or the facility out of concerns for his safety and privacy.
What does immunocompromised mean?
Individuals who are immunocompromised have weakened immune systems that are less equipped to fight off infections, said Archana Narayan, an allergist and immunologist at North Texas Allergy and Asthma Associates.
What are immunosuppressants?
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Processed And Charred Meats
Like fried foods, processed and charred meats are high in AGEs.
For example, a study that analyzed the AGE content of 549 foods found that fried bacon, broiled hot dogs, roasted skin-on chicken thighs, and grilled steak had the highest AGE contents .
Processed meats are also high in saturated fat. Some research suggests that diets high in saturated fats and low in unsaturated fats may contribute to immune system dysfunction (
Diets high in processed meat and meats cooked at high temperatures have been linked to increased disease risk and may harm your immune system.
Immune Suppression Is A Side Effect Of Inhaled Steroids
Response from John Bottrell, RRT
Its important to understand that asthma is a syndrome associated with increased airway inflammation. A main feature of this inflammation are immune cells and the chemicals they release . Inhaled corticosteroids greatly diminish the supply and the effects of these immune cells and chemicals.
The benefit here is a reduction in airway inflammation, making your airways less sensitive to asthma triggers. Asthma attacks are less likely to occur and are less severe and easier to control when they do occur. So, yes, inhaled corticosteroids do suppress the immune system but only in your lungs to help you control your asthma.
Sometimes, especially with higher doses of inhaled steroids, a small amount of the medicine can be absorbed into your system. When this happens, it can mildly suppress your immune system throughout your entire body. In this case, you may notice some mild side effects such as bruises that dont seem to go away. However, studies seem to show that rinsing your mouth and throat with water, and then spitting it out , greatly reduces your risk for any systemic side effects to inhaled corticosteroids.
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What Happens If I Have An Autoimmune Disease
There are many different autoimmune diseases with different treatments and consequences for people with these diseases. It is important to find out as much as possible about your autoimmune disease by asking questions of your treating doctor.
ASCIA is the peak professional body of clinical immunology/allergy specialists in Australia and New Zealand.
ASCIA resources are based on published literature and expert review, however, they are not intended to replace medical advice. The content of ASCIA resources is not influenced by any commercial organisations.
For more information go to www.allergy.org.au
To donate to immunology/allergy research go to www.allergyimmunology.org.au/donate
Add Some Spice To Your Life
Certain spices are particularly beneficial when it comes to minimizing inflammation and boosting your bodys healthy immune response.
Super-flavorful options include ginger, cayenne pepper, cloves, garlic, cinnamon, and turmeric.
Turmeric, in particular, is a powerful anti-inflammatory.
A 2007 study in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology noted that curcumin has been shown to help with multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease.
According to the Journal of Alternative Medicine Review: Curcumin supplementation can result in up to a 60% reduction in pain and a 73% reduction in joint stiffness.
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Immunologic And Autoimmune Lung Disease
Respiratory problems are common and can be serious in patients who have a connective tissue or autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. With an autoimmune disease, a persons own immune system attacks the lungs, causing inflammation and scarring that can impair lung function and breathing. Rheumatoid arthritis may lead to a group of lung conditions categorized as rheumatoid lung disease. These include shortness of breath or dyspnea caused when the lung lining gets inflamed and filled with fluid . Common lung problems for people with connective tissue disease are interstitial lung disease , including pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary sarcoidosis, and pulmonary hypertension. Patients with autoimmune disease may also present with bronchiectasis and lung nodules.
Board-certified pulmonologists and thoracic surgeons at the Brigham and Womens Hospital Lung Center provide specialized medical and surgical services for immunologic and autoimmune lung diseases. They collaborate with a multidisciplinary team that crosses many specialties: rheumatology, radiology, pathology and pulmonary rehabilitation. Together with our diagnostic microbiology and rheumatology laboratories, we provide patients with accurate diagnosis and comprehensive disease treatment and management.
Dont Try This At Home
One of the main biologics used in allergy practices is omalizumab, an anti-IgE antibody used to treat severe, persistent asthma and chronic urticaria, explained Sanjiv Sur, MD, from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
It is administered subcutaneously and, because it comes with a risk for anaphylaxis, cannot be administered at home, he warned, adding that patients should be evaluated on an individual basis assess to its riskbenefit ratio.
In this time of crisis, some patients can be switched to oral medicines to manage their urticaria so that they need not be exposed to the risk of coming to the hospital or clinic to receive their injection, said Sur. However, if a switch is not possible, patients should continue to receive their injection to prevent losing control of their asthma.
Similarly, patients who receive biologics like subcutaneous mepolizumab and intravenous gamma globulin, which must be administered in an infusion center or doctors office because of the risk for severe adverse effects, should continue to receive them for asthma control, he said.
But there are asthma-focused biologics that can be used at home.
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Selective Polysaccharide Antibody Deficiencies
These individuals have normal quantitative immunoglobulin levels, however, they demonstrate a selective defect in their antibody response to polysaccharide vaccination . Functionally, SPAD patients have an increased incidence of infections . This disease can be demonstrated by a lack of response to unconjugated polysaccharide vaccine in patients with normal quantitative immunoglobulin levels. Patients with SPAD rarely require gamma globulin replacement.
Foods That Contain Certain Additives
Many food items, especially ultra-processed foods, contain additives to improve shelf life, texture, and taste. Some of these may negatively affect your immune response.
For example, some emulsifiers, which are added to processed foods to improve texture and shelf life, can alter gut bacteria, harm your gut lining, and induce inflammation, all of which can cause immune dysfunction .
Carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80 are commonly used emulsifiers that have been linked to immune dysfunction in rodent studies (
Choosing nutritious, high fiber carb sources like starchy vegetables, oats, fruit, and legumes over refined carbs is smart to support immune health.
A diet high in refined carbs may adversely affect your immune system. Choosing more nutritious carb sources like fruits and starchy vegetables is a better choice for your overall health.
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What Causes Autoimmune Diseases
Theres no definitive answer as to what causes autoimmune disease. But many scientists suspect the following three things play a role:
- And environmental factors including diet, toxins, and the balance of intestinal bacteria
In recent history, Westernized countries have seen significantly higher rates of these diseases suggesting that autoimmune diseases are not just a product of genetics or bad luck. Instead, the choices we make may strongly influence our chances of getting an autoimmune disease.
Lifestyle changes, particularly food choices, can play a key role in managing or even reversing many of these autoimmune diseases.
No established cures for autoimmune diseases exist.
But numerous studies have demonstrated that lifestyle changes, particularly food choices, can play a key role in managing or even reversing many of these autoimmune diseases.
Response To Maintenance Therapy
Presence of autoantibodies in the lungs could be one of the mechanisms that contribute to the observed steroid subsensitivity in severe asthmatics . The prednisone-sparing effect of classical autoimmune drugs in severe eosinophilic prednisone-dependent patients with biopsy evidence of granulomas is indicative of the same, even though airway autoantibody titers were not investigated. One of the potential mechanisms may be attributed to the increase in autoantibody titers in an eosinophil-rich tissue, and the consequent autoantibody-induced eosinophil degranulation with EETs. As discussed earlier in previous section, the event was shown to be a steroid-unresponsive ex vivo, and therefore could explain the concurrent presence of high eosinophil activity and sputum autoantibodies despite intake of daily prednisone in those patients. In an autoimmune tissue, increased doses of corticosteroid will be able to reduce the lymphocytic infiltration and eosinophils, but will not be efficient in reducing the number of autoantibodies or suppressing their immediate mechanism of action on effector cells . Again, in the same microenvironment of increased IgG load, the cross-linking of Fc-gamma receptors on eosinophils can negatively affect glucocorticosteroid-induced apoptosis, promoting survival., Furthermore, earlier studies could address impaired response to bronchodilators in patients who showed circulating autoantibodies to beta-2-adrenergic receptors.,
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Infections’ Impact On Asthma
Asthma can be triggered by a variety of things. One of the most common triggers are infections, including respiratory viruses and, to a lesser degree, bacterial and fungal infections of the respiratory tract.
Respiratory viruses are the predominant infectious cause of asthma attacks. As the viruses attach to receptors on the lining of the airways, they effectively “trip the alarms” for the immune system to attack, leading to inflammation and the onset of acute asthma symptoms.
In some cases, the symptoms of the infection will precede the attack in others, the infection and asthma symptoms will co-occur.
Among the respiratory viruses closely link to asthma symptoms are:
- Rhinoviruses, the predominant cause of the common cold
- Coronaviruses, some of which cause colds
- Adenoviruses, associated with colds, bronchitis, and pneumonia
- Influenza viruses, associated with flu
- Parainfluenza viruses, which mainly affect infants and young children
- Respiratory syncytial virus , which most children get by the age of 2
Viral-induced asthma attack is extremely common, affecting roughly 85% of children and 50% of adults with asthma.
Less commonly, bacteria like Streptococcus pneumoniae, Hemophilus influenzae, and Moraxella catarrhalis have been known to trigger asthma attacks, particularly if a sinus infection is involved.
Fungal infections are more closely associated with poor asthma control rather than the onset of an attack, although it can occur.