Common Variable Immunodeficiency

CVI is characterized by a profound decrease in numbers of antibody-producing plasma cells, low levels of most im-munoglobulin isotypes (hypogammaglobulinemia), and recurrent infections. The condition is usually manifested later in life than other deficiencies and is sometimes called late-onset hypogammaglobulinemia or, incorrectly, acquired hypogammaglobulinemia. However, CVI has a genetic component and is considered a primary immunodeficiency, although the exact pattern of inheritance is not known. Because the manifestations are very similar to those of acquired hypogammaglobulinemia, there is some confusion between the two forms (see below). Infections in CVI sufferers are most frequently bacterial and can be controlled by administration of immunoglobulin. In CVI patients, B cells fail to mature into plasma cells; however in vitro studies show that CVI B cells are capable of maturing in response to appropriate differentiation signals. The underlying defect in CVI is not known, but must involve either an in vivo blockage of the maturation of B cells to the plasma-cell stage or their inability to produce the secreted form of immunoglobulins.

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