X-linked agammaglobulinemia (XLA) is a condition that affects the immune system and occurs almost exclusively in males. People with XLA have very few B cells, which are specialized white blood cells that help protect the body against infection. B cells can mature into the cells that produce special proteins called antibodies or immunoglobulins. Antibodies attach to specific foreign particles and germs, marking them for destruction. Individuals with XLA are more susceptible to infections because their body makes very few antibodies.Children with XLA are usually healthy for the first 1 or 2 months of life because they are protected by antibodies acquired before birth from their mother. After this time, the maternal antibodies are cleared from the body, and the affected child begins to develop recurrent infections. In children with XLA, infections generally take longer to get better and then they come back again, even with antibiotic medications. The most common bacterial infections that occur in people with XLA are lung infections (pneumonia and bronchitis), ear infections (otitis), pink eye (conjunctivitis), and sinus infections (sinusitis). Infections that cause chronic diarrhea are also common. Recurrent infections can lead to organ damage. People with XLA can develop severe, life-threatening bacterial infections; however, affected individuals are not particularly vulnerable to infections caused by viruses. With treatment to replace antibodies, infections can usually be prevented, improving the quality of life for people with XLA.
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