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Immunodeficiency should be suspected when infections occur with unusual organisms, do not clear completely with antibiotics, or are recurrent. Immunodeficiency can present in infancy, or it can be acquired in adulthood. Adult immunodeficiency is commonly caused  by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) but can also be caused by medications used to treat autoimmune and malignant disease. Another common immunodeficiency known as common-variable hypogammaglobulinemia occurs in adults as part of a generalized loss of ability to produce infection-fighting antibodies.  The exact cause of this acquired immune disorder is unknown.

The most common immunodeficiency in adults and children is deficiency of IgA, which occurs in about one in five hundred people and is a relatively mild disorder. IgA is an infection fighting antibody that occurs on the surface of body tissues in contact with the inside and outside worlds This includes the lining of the nose, mouth, lungs, intestinal tract and urinary tract.  It usually becomes apparent when chronic infections affect the ears, sinuses and lung.
Many people are without symptoms, and it is usually discovered incidentally during evaluation for other problems. Common variable antibody deficiency can be treated with intravenous gamma globulin, which replaces the missing antibodies the immune system is unable to produce. IgA deficiency cannot be restored with transfusions of antibodies because of the risk of severe allergic reactions.