Murphy, Robert L. Division of Infectious Diseases, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, Illinois.
- Compromised host defenses
- Diagnosis and treatment
- Additional Reading
Infections that cause a disease and occur only when the host's ability to fight back (the immune system) is impaired. Some microorganisms can be both opportunistic and nonopportunistic. An example is the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. A healthy individual who is exposed to a sufficient number of M. tuberculosis bacteria can develop pulmonary tuberculosis and become quite ill. However, most people with normal immune systems who are exposed to tuberculosis never become clinically ill even though they become infected. In this case, the body's immune defenses are capable of isolating the M. tuberculosis and preventing it from spreading throughout the body and causing symptoms or clinical disease. However, if an individual with tuberculosis also has an immune deficiency, such as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), the disease process is much different. Individuals with AIDS who are exposed to an infected person with active tuberculosis are much more likely to become ill, have more widespread disease, infect others, and die from the disease. Fortunately, if the diagnosis is made in time, antituberculous medications work effectively regardless of the underlying condition. See also: Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); Tuberculosis
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