What is Clinical Immunology?

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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2018
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Clinical immunology involves the study and treatment of diseases that are strongly associated with the immune system, such as autoimmune disorders and immunodeficient disorders. The field is also concerned with allergies, in which one's immune system reacts in a harmful manner to substances that are actually completely harmless. While different branches of immunology may focus exclusively on lab work, treatment, or other aspects of the field, clinical immunology is often focused on the use of clinical trials and case studies to refine and improve available treatment options. Treatment and research, then, are both important elements of clinical immunology with one often informing and improving the other.

One type of condition with which clinical immunology is concerned is referred to as autoimmunity. Autoimmunity describes a set of conditions in which an individual's immune system mounts harmful attacks against the individual's body even when no infection is present. Diseases in which the immune system attack's the individual's body are referred to as autoimmune diseases. Environmental, genetic, and a variety of other factors can all contribute to the development of an autoimmune disease. Many different treatments are available for autoimmune disorders, though many are immunosuppressants that may harm the ability of the immune system to defend the body from actual threats.


Immunodeficiency is another broad category of immune conditions with which clinical immunology is concerned. While a healthy immune system is able to fight diseases, a deficient immune system may be partially or entirely unable to offer up any resistance against disease. Sometimes, immunodeficiency is caused by the acquisition of some form of disease; this acquired form of immunodeficiency is called secondary immunodeficiency. When one is born in an immunocompromised state, he is said to have a primary immunodeficiency. Both forms are characterized by increased susceptibility to a variety of different infectious diseases, some of which are completely harmless to those with healthy immune systems.

Work in clinical immunology is generally performed by practicing physicians. It is not uncommon for the physicians to also hold a doctorate degree, particularly when the major focus of the clinical immunology work is research. The viability of new or experimental treatments is often tested and analyzed in a clinical setting, and case studies are often published in journals to inform others of the success or failure of a given approach. There are many different scientific journals devoted to the field of clinical immunology; these publish a variety of different types of articles, ranging from case studies to reviews of the state of the field.



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