Immune system's ability to fight infectious disease and cancer
Immunodeficiency or immunocompromise is a state in which the immune system's ability to fight infectious disease and cancer is compromised or entirely absent. Most cases of immunodeficiency are acquired ("secondary") due to extrinsic factors that affect the patient's immune system. Examples of these extrinsic factors include HIV infection and environmental factors, such as nutrition. In the clinical setting, the immunosuppression by some drugs, such as steroids, can be either an adverse effect or the intended purpose of the treatment. Examples of such use is in organ transplant surgery as an anti-rejection measure and in patients suffering from an overactive immune system, as in autoimmune diseases. Some people are born with intrinsic defects in their immune system, or primary immunodeficiency. A person who has an immunodeficiency of any kind is said to be immunocompromised. An immunocompromised person may be particularly vulnerable to opportunistic infections, in addition to normal infections that could affect everyone. Immunodeficiency also decreases cancer immunosurveillance, in which the immune system scans the body's cells and kills neoplastic ones.
The cause of immunodeficiency varies depending on the nature of the disorder. The cause can be either genetic or acquired by malnutrition and poor sanitary conditions. Only for some genetic causes, the exact genes are known.