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Immunoglobulin (also called gamma globulin
or immune globulin) is a substance made from human blood plasma. The plasma,
processed from donated human blood, contains
antibodies that protect the body against diseases.
When you are given an immunoglobulin, your body uses antibodies from other
people's blood plasma to help prevent illness. And even though immunoglobulins
are obtained from blood, they are purified so that they can't pass on diseases
to the person who receives them.
Specific types of immunoglobulin
are made to protect against specific diseases, such as
measles. Immunoglobulin injections may:
You may be given an immunoglobulin if you are exposed to certain infectious diseases, such as
measles. The immunoglobulin may prevent or reduce the
severity of the illness if given shortly after exposure. The time period during
which an injection provides this benefit ranges from days to months, depending
on the disease.
Immunoglobulins do not provide long-term
protection in the same way as a traditional vaccine. The protection they
provide is short-term, usually lasting a few months. It is still possible to
get the disease after the immunoglobulin has worn off.
Rh-negative woman becomes pregnant with an Rh-positive
fetus (which can occur when the father's blood is
Rh-positive), the pregnant woman's immune system makes
antibodies that can destroy the fetus's blood in a
future pregnancy. This antibody response is called
Rh sensitization and occurs only if the fetus's blood
mixes with the pregnant woman's, which can happen during birth.
prevent Rh sensitization during pregnancy, you must have an Rh immunoglobulin
injection if you are Rh-negative. This is done during your pregnancy and after
delivery to protect the fetus of a future pregnancy.
Immunoglobulin is sometimes used to treat idiopathic
thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), an immune disorder in which the body attacks
the cells responsible for blood clotting (platelets), resulting in bleeding. The cause of ITP is not known (idiopathic).
People who have this disorder may have bruises or black-and-blue marks
(purpura) on the skin. Internal bleeding is a more serious complication that
Some cases of ITP may go away on their own and do not
require treatment. In other cases, treatment may be needed to control bleeding.
Some medicines can help the body make more platelets. Steroids (such as
prednisone) or other medicines may be needed to suppress the immune system. An intravenous (IV) infusion of a substance made from human
blood plasma (immunoglobulin) may be given. Sometimes you will need to have platelet transfusions. In rare cases, the spleen may need to
Other Works Consulted
Delves PJ, et al. (2006). Immunological methods and applications. In Roitt's Essential Immunology, 11th ed., pp. 111–154. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
Current as of:
June 4, 2014
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Joseph O'Donnell, MD - Hematology, Oncology
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