An antibody (immunoglobulin) is an immune system protein that helps fight against infection and disease. The term "hypogammaglobulinemia" refers specifically to a low level of IgG, which is the most common antibody in the bloodstream. Additional types of antibodies, including immunoglobulin A (IgA) also may be low in children with transient hypogammaglobulinemia of infancy (THI).
In healthy babies, antibody levels in the blood reach a natural low point when they are between three and four months of age. This happens because babies are no longer receiving the antibody known as immunoglobulin G (IgG) from their mother, and they are unable to produce their own yet. Once healthy babies reach six months of age, their antibodies are produced at a normal rate.
In children who have THI, the levels of IgG and IgA levels remain low after six months of age because not enough immunoglobulin is produced. Babies who are born prematurely are at an even greater risk of developing THI because they had less time to build up antibody supplies before birth. There appears to be no correlation between breastfeeding and THI.
Many children who have THI require frequent treatments for infections because they have insufficient antibodies to fight off harmful microbes. However, some children may experience no symptoms.
The disorder is temporary. It usually resolves between the ages of two and four years old. In rare cases, the disorder can persist until the children reaches six year old.
Researchers estimate that THI affects about 1 out of 10,000 children. However, this number may be higher because some children experience few or no symptoms, and they might not be diagnosed.
The prognosis is good for children who have THI. Children with THI have normal life expectancies and are able to live healthy lives. Serious complications from infections are uncommon. The condition resolves on its own, with most children reaching normal antibody levels by two to four years of age, and the rest reaching normal levels by age six. Even if the antibody levels are low in patients who are older than three years of age, there appears to be a decrease in the number of infections.
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