Immunoglobulin therapy is a treatment that boosts antibody levels in the blood. The treatment contains antibodies (proteins in the body) that help the body to fight infections in the lung – the most common place for infections to start.
It is the treatment we offer most regularly to patients with an immune deficiency. Immune deficiencies occur when there is a lack of antibodies in a person’s body, making them more likely to catch an infection.
We do this by giving you the treatment through a drip into a vein in your arm, which increases your level of antibodies to a level that can fight infections successfully. In most cases, patients that have this treatment have fewer lung infections. The ones that do occur are less serious after the treatment.
What tests do I need before I can start treatment?
During your first appointment we will:
- ask you about your medical history
- examine your chest
- schedule you in for the lung function tests
- run an X-ray and a CT scan to see if you have any lung damage.
We will also run a blood test to see if you have an antibody deficiency, or to check which antibody deficiency you have. We will also check your hepatitis C status, because having hepatitis C is more likely to cause liver damage in people with immune deficiencies.
A sample of your blood will be stored in our microbiology laboratory so that future blood samples can be cross-referenced against it. If you were to develop a problem with your treatment at any stage, we can check when this happened and which product was involved.
If you have had a recent chest infection or sinus infection, please let us know. We can also test your blood regularly to check that you are on the correct treatment close.
You will be given the treatment through a drip into a vein in your arm, to increase your level of antibodies to help fight infections. It will usually run between two and four hours, which is dependent on how much treatment you have been prescribed.
To have this treatment, you will need to spend the day on Lind Ward for three weeks in a row. During these appointments, our nurses will monitor the effect of the treatment by regularly checking on you.
Our immunologist will review your treatment every six months.
Is this treatment safe?
Immunoglobulin treatment is safe for most patients. However, some patients may experience reactions during treatment such as fevers, shivering, skin rashes, wheezing and headaches. These can be treated by stopping or slowing the rate of the treatment or through medication.
If you have had a recent chest or sinus infection that has not improved with the use of antibiotics, you are more likely to get these side effects.
Are there any risks of this treatment?
Immunoglobulin therapy is obtained from human blood donors. Companies that process immunoglobulin take great care to reduce the risk of spreading viruses that can cause disease in humans. However, they cannot guarantee that the product is 100 per cent safe.
Please let us know if you are worried about this, we are happy to discuss this with you.
Where does immunoglobulin come from?
Current immunoglobulin supplies come from foreign imports. No donated British blood was used for immunoglobulin between 1998 and 2021 as a vCJD precaution. The MHRA has now concluded that plasma from British donors can again restart, supported by safety measures. Donations are now being taken and they will reach patients as medicine from 2024. If you wish to donate plasma to make immunoglobulin, please visit www.blood.co.uk/plasma.
- HIV – no cases of HIV have been linked with immunoglobulin therapy
- Hepatitis C – there have not been any cases of hepatitis C being contracted by patients receiving immunoglobulin therapy in Britain since 1994. We will check your blood once a year for signs of hepatitis C, as it is more likely to cause liver damage in people with immune deficiencies. There is evidence to suggest that quick treatment of hepatitis C leads to an increased change of clearing the virus and preventing liver disease
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) – Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) – there have been no reported cases of CJD among patients receiving immunoglobulin therapy. We do not know what the risk of getting CJD is or how long it might take for symptoms of the disease to develop if patients were to receive contaminated blood. Please let us know if you experience any problems with memory, balance, tremors or have difficulty walking so we can arrange for the relevant tests.
Patient information leaflets
This leaflet is a general guide to the Home Subcutaneous (SC) Immunoglobulin therapy service and immunoglobulin replacement therapy. It provides patients and carers with information about how to safely give the therapy at home, and complements the face-to-face training that our nursing teams provide.
Infection prevention and control contact details
Infection prevention and control contact number at Harefield Hospital: 01895 828 571
Infection prevention and control contact numbers at Royal Brompton Hospital: 020 7351 8444 / 8455