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Medicine (Baltimore). 1984 Sep;63(5):243-73.

Complement deficiency states and infection: epidemiology, pathogenesis and consequences of neisserial and other infections in an immune deficiency.


Inherited deficiencies of the complement proteins are rare in unselected populations. Examination of patients with the clinical correlates of complement deficiency (autoimmune disease and certain bacterial infections) shows the frequency of inherited complement deficiency to rise enormously (5.9% of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, 10 to 25% of adults with sporadic meningococcal disease). Autoimmune diseases of all types, but especially systemic lupus erythematosus, discoid lupus and glomerulonephritis, are seen in all categories of complement deficiency, most typically in those of the early classical pathway (C1, C4, C2). Pneumococcal infections are characteristic of deficiencies of the early classical pathway, as well. Deficiencies of C3 are associated with severe disease including autoimmune phenomena, pneumococcal and neisserial infections. C3-deficient patients become ill substantially earlier in life. Infections with N. meningitidis and N. gonorrhoeae are most typical of the late component deficiencies, with over 40% of homozygotes affected. Despite the presence of this deficiency from birth and the peak age-specific incidence of meningococcal disease in the general population at ages 3-8 months, the median age of first infection in the late component-deficient patients is 17 years. Relapse of infection is ten times more common in these patients, and discrete recurrences are seen in 45% of affected individuals. An unusual and unexplained predilection for infection with serogroup Y N. meningitidis exists. Despite an immune deficiency, and problems with ascertainment bias, it appears that persons with late component complement deficiency enjoy less mortality than normals who contract meningococcal disease. Attempts to explain the pathogenesis of neisserial infection in late component deficiencies have focused on the concept that normally non-pathogenic serum-sensitive bacteria are etiologic in the absence of serum bactericidal activity. Data to support this concept remain to be developed and contrary data exist. A separate mechanism may predispose properdin-deficient patients to meningococcal infection, since they appear to develop fulminant infections with high mortality.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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