People with impaired or weakened immune systems are called immunocompromised. Such a condition basically diminishes their body’s ability to fight against infections. And in these times when the coronavirus outbreak has scared countries into announcing lockdowns, the immunocompromised population needs to be extra cautious in who and what they interact with.
People usually develop weak immunity due to two reasons — illness or medications. When it comes to diseases, “common ones include diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, blood and bone marrow cancers, HIV/AIDS, people who have had their spleen removed, sickle cell anemia, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, certain types of thyroid disease, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease, and chronic liver disease,” according to Al Jazeera.
As far as drugs are concerned, certain medications used in the treatment of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, multiple sclerosis, etc., work by suppressing the person’s immune system. Some of these medications include methotrexate, azathioprine, cyclosporine, infliximab, and so on. Extended use of opioids and some forms of radiotherapy and chemotherapy can also cause disruption in the immune system.
If you are immunocompromised, you would have already been notified by your healthcare provider. But in some cases, a medical condition can end up suppressing the immune system but might escape diagnosis. This means that you might be immunocompromised and you won’t even know it! Signs of such a condition include frequent pneumonia, delayed growth, digestive issues, etc. If you think that there is even the slightest chance that you might be immunocompromised, visit a doctor immediately. Living with such a condition is like inviting illnesses into your body.
Immunocompromised people must make extra efforts to ensure that they completely avoid touching or even being in the vicinity of other people. “This means not only staying away from any crowds but also avoiding trips to public areas in general. And it definitely means to forgo any cruise trips or nonessential travel… immunocompromised people may want to take vitamin C, vitamin D, and a good multivitamin to bolster their immune systems,” according to CNET.
Immunity and the virus
A team of scientists from Australia has discovered the process by which your body’s immune system fights the COVID-19 virus. Their findings have been published in the Nature Medicine journal and point out that people who recover from the coronavirus infection do so like they would from flu. “This [discovery] is important because it is the first time where we are really understanding how our immune system fights novel coronavirus… It is really key now to understand what is lacking or different in patients who have died or who have really severe disease — so we can understand how to protect them,” study co-author Prof Katherine Kedzierska said to the BBC.
The researchers found four types of immune cells that fought against COVID-19. The results were obtained by tracking a patient infected with the virus but had no health issues previously. The woman had recovered within 14 days after being infected. Three days prior to the recovery, the scientists observed specific cells in her bloodstream, which surprisingly looked like the same cells that appear in patients recovering from flu. The discovery of immune cells that combat the coronavirus should help in boosting vaccine development efforts as well as in predicting the course of the virus.