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Difference Between Immunosuppression and Immunodeficiency

Immunosuppression is a drop in the response of the immune system to infection. Immunodeficiency is a lack in the immune response of the body to an infection.

What is Immunosuppression?


Immunosuppression is when the immune system response is significantly decreased either on purpose or due to illness.


People may experience more frequent infections if their immune system is suppressed, but where there is too much of an immune response such as in autoimmune disease, immunosuppressant medication may actually be helpful making the person healthier.


Sometimes immunosuppression is needed and artificially induced. For instance, for people who have transplanted organs or those with autoimmune diseases. In these cases, drugs are used to stop the immune system from attacking a new organ or healthy tissues. In other cases, immunosuppression can be caused by chronic inflammation and disease.

Positives and negatives:

There is a positive side to immunosuppression for people who suffer from illnesses like lupus where the immune system is overactive, causing the body to attack its own tissues. It is also essential for organ transplant recipients to be on immunosuppressant medication to avoid organ rejection. The negative side of immunosuppression is it can lead to immunodeficiency in which the immune response is too deficient and lacking in cells to bring about a response when exposed to infection. This can make the person vulnerable to other diseases.


Immunosuppression that is due to an illness or disease can progress and become immunodeficiency, which is more harmful because it can lead to frequent illness.

What is Immunodeficiency?


Immunodeficiency is a lack of ability of the immune system to work properly.


A person with immunodeficiency is more likely to become ill and may develop an autoimmune disease as well as an illness like cancer or infection. Specific immunodeficiency disorders can be deadly, as the person catches one infection after another. 


Genetic mutations can cause immunodeficiency, for instance, X-linked immunodeficiency disease. Babies can be born lacking important immune system components, which could be some type of white blood cell or chemicals like antibodies that are needed to fight off an infection. Certain infectious agents; for instance, the HIV virus, also causes a deficient immune system, as can sepsis. 

Positives and negatives:

There is no positive side to having immunodeficiency. In fact, it is dangerous and people are often sick with conditions like colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, and cancer. The HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) can cause AIDs (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). In AIDS, there is a lack of a certain type of white blood cell called CD4, which means that the immune system is seriously deficient. In people with AIDs, the person is continually becoming ill and even catches rare diseases that can be fatal. SCID is severe combined immunodeficiency, which is an inherited condition where there is a severe lack of a proper immune system.


Immunodeficiency makes a person very susceptible to infection and illnesses. In fact, the reason that AIDs is so deadly is that people cannot fight off infections, even rare infections, which ultimately can result in death.

Difference between Immunosuppression and Immunodeficiency?


Immunosuppression is a decreased efficiency of the immune system. Immunodeficiency is an absence of an appropriate response of the immune system.


Certain diseases and medications can cause immunosuppression. Genetics, congenital problems, and certain infectious agents like viruses can cause immunodeficiency.


Immunosuppression is sometimes a useful treatment for people with autoimmune diseases and is needed by organ transplant recipients. There is no advantage to immunodeficiency.


A drawback of immunosuppression is that it can result in immunodeficiency. A disadvantage of immunodeficiency is that it makes a person vulnerable to catching many infections and increases the odds of death.


The complication of immunosuppression is that it can progress to the worse problem of immunodeficiency. The complication of immunodeficiency is that the person catches many infections and is at increased risk of death.

Table comparing Immunosuppression and Immunodeficiency

Summary of Immunosuppression Vs. Immunodeficiency

  • Immunosuppression and immunodeficiency are both conditions related to a problem with the immune system.
  • Immunosuppression is sometimes intentionally induced in people who have organ transplants or who have autoimmune problems.
  • Immunodeficiency caused by viruses or genetic mutations can be dangerous and even deadly.


Is Immunosuppression the same as immunodeficiency?

Immunosuppression is not the same as immunodeficiency, because it is only a reduced response that in some cases, may actually be helpful for a person. Immunodeficiency, though, is always a bad thing because it indicates a lack or deficiency of an immune response meaning that illness is more likely. People with immunodeficiency become ill easily and may end up catching rare diseases that are deadly.

What is considered an immunodeficiency?

Immunodeficiency is any condition in which there is a lack of either white blood cells or antibodies to protect the body in the event of an infection. Conditions such as HIV/AIDS or SCID are examples of immunodeficiency diseases.

What diseases are considered immunosuppressed?

Cancer and certain viral infections are conditions that are frequently associated with immunosuppression.

Who is considered immunosuppressed?

Any person who has a chronic illness, or who is elderly or very young is immunosuppressed. People who are sick are often immunosuppressed.

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References :

[0]Kanterman, Julia, Moshe Sade-Feldman, and Michal Baniyash. "New insights into chronic inflammation-induced immunosuppression." Seminars in cancer biology. Vol. 22. No. 4. Academic Press, 2012.

[1]Schwartz, Robert S. "Immunodeficiency, immunosuppression, and susceptibility to neoplasms." JNCI Monographs 2000.28 (2000): 5-9.

[2]Venet, Fabienne, et al. "Myeloid cells in sepsis‐acquired immunodeficiency." Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1499.1 (2021): 3-17.

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