Opportunistic Infections Attack the Weak Immune System

Opportunistic infections are infections caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, or parasites that occur in people with weakened immune systems.  In other words, this infection takes the opportunity of a weak immune system to develop.

 Opportunitistic infections do not affect healthy people and have a good immune system.  However, if it occurs in people with very weak immune systems, such as AIDS sufferers, this infection can cause death.

 Vulnerable Conditions Experiencing Opportunistic Infections

 When germs that cause disease enter the body of a healthy person, white blood cells called lymphocytes will respond to fight them, so that infection does not occur.  Even if an infection occurs, it can generally heal easily.

 Whereas in people with AIDS, where the number of white blood cells called CD4 cells is not enough to fight germs, infection can occur easily.  Even bacteria or fungi that are usually harmless and live normally inside or on the surface of the body can cause infections.

 It is not only HIV that can cause opportunistic infections.  All conditions that make the immune system weak can become a "door" for opportunistic infections to enter.

 Here are some conditions that are susceptible to opportunistic infections:

  •  Severe burns
  •  Undergoing chemotherapy
  •  Diabetes
  •  Malnutrition
  •  Leukemia
  •  Multiple myeloma

 Types of opportunistic infections

 The following are some common types of opportunistic infections:

 1. Candidiasis

 Candidiasis is an infection caused by Candida fungus that can appear in any part of the body.  People with HIV infection often experience candidiasis, especially in the mouth and vagina.

 2. Pneumonia

 Pneumonia is the most serious opportunistic infection for people with HIV.  Pneumonia infection that is common in people with HIV is Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) which can be treated with antibiotics.

 3. Invasive cervical cancer

 This cancer begins in the cervix, which then spreads to other parts of the body.  The emergence of this cancer can be detected early and treated immediately if a routine screening check, namely with a Pap smear.

 4. Cryptosporidiosis

 Cryptosporidiosis is an infection of the gastrointestinal tract caused by the Cryptosporidium parasite.  This disease causes diarrhea with liquid stool.  In people with HIV, this disease can last longer and cause more severe symptoms.

 5. Herpes simplex

 This viral infection can cause the appearance of small bubbles and sores that are typical around the mouth and genitals.  Herpes simplex can be transmitted through sexual contact, can also be transmitted from mother to her baby through childbirth.  Apart from the mouth and genitals, this infection can also attack the airways.  People with weaker immune systems are more susceptible to herpes simplex, and the symptoms they experience will also be more severe.

 6. Toxoplasmosis

 Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii.  In healthy people, this infection is generally harmless.  However, in people with weakened immune systems, toxoplasmosis can invade the brain and cause vision problems, hearing loss, seizures, to coma.

 7. Tuberculosis

 Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis.  This disease can be spread through saliva splashes when the sufferer coughs, sneezes, or talks.  HIV sufferers are very susceptible to TB.  If not treated, this disease can cause death.

 Prevention of opportunistic infections

 To prevent opportunistic infections, there are several steps that can be done, namely:

  • Apply a healthy lifestyle, including having safe sex.  Use a condom when having sex, to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
  • Wash and cook food well.  Make sure the cleanliness of the cooking utensils used to process food.
  • Avoid consuming raw or undercooked milk, meat and eggs.
  • Use gloves to remove pet feces, and keep cats out of the room so they don't carry germs that can harm you.
  • Avoid sharing the use of a toothbrush or towel with others.
  • Avoid swallowing or drinking water that comes directly from ponds, lakes or rivers.
  • Follow the vaccination program that is required and recommended by the government to maintain immunity.
  • For women, do a pelvic exam and a Pap smear to detect cancer or infection.

 Opportunistic infections do not need to be feared if your body is healthy.  However, if your immune system is weak, or if you have a medical condition that can weaken your immune system, do a routine check with your doctor so that opportunistic infections can be prevented and detected as early as possible.


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