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Common Variable Immunodeficiency 

Depiction of an antibody. Courtesy NIH

Depiction of an antibody. Courtesy NIH

What Is Common Variable Immunodeficiency?

Common variable immunodeficiency (CVID) is a primary antibody deficiency disease characterized by the onset of recurrent bacterial infections resulting from markedly decreased immunoglobulin antibody production and antibody levels.

Q: What causes common variable immunodeficiency?

A: Common variable immunodeficiency is caused by a defect in any critical stage of B cell development and is characterized by impaired production of normal amounts of antigen-specific antibodies. This is a set up for infection, autoimmune disease, and cancer.

One important histologic feature is the absence or paucity of plasma cells in the biopsy that occurs in common variable immunodeficiency. The diagnosis is initially made by measuring quantitative immunoglobulins and then specific immune testing on these cell subsets in the circulation by flow cytometry.1

Early diagnosis and treatment with IgG therapy (immunoglobulin G) can decrease illness and mortality.2 

Pulmonary damage is the most frequent complication and may result from recurrent infections and/or immune dysregulation. Other complications due to the underlying immune dysregulation include lymphoproliferative disease (granulomatous disease, lymphadenopathy and hepatosplenomegaly), autoimmune disease, gastrointestinal disease such as chronic inflammation and an increased risk of cancer.3

It is important to recognize that common variable immunodeficiency can occur at any age, but an early onset may be associated with an increased risk of gastric cancers and lymphoma, particularly of the intestine.4

Patients with common variable immunodeficiency should be managed by an immunologist with experience in primary immunodeficiency states, given the complications of these patients.5

What Is Common Variable Immunodeficiency In Celiac Disease and/or Gluten Sensitivity?


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  1. Murray JA1, Rubio-Tapia A. Diarrhoea due to small bowel diseases. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2012 Oct;26(5):581-600. doi: 10.1016/j.bpg.2012.11.013. 

  2. Maarschalk-Ellerbroek LJ, Hoepelman AI, van Montfrans JM, Ellerbroek PM. The spectrum of disease manifestations in patients with common variable immunodeficiency disorders and partial antibody deficiency in a university hospital. J Clin Immunol. 2012 Oct;32(5):907-21. doi: 10.1007/s10875-012-9671-6. 

  3. Maarschalk-Ellerbroek LJ, Hoepelman AI, van Montfrans JM, Ellerbroek PM. The spectrum of disease manifestations in patients with common variable immunodeficiency disorders and partial antibody deficiency in a university hospital. J Clin Immunol. 2012 Oct;32(5):907-21. doi: 10.1007/s10875-012-9671-6. 

  4. Maarschalk-Ellerbroek LJ, Hoepelman AI, van Montfrans JM, Ellerbroek PM. The spectrum of disease manifestations in patients with common variable immunodeficiency disorders and partial antibody deficiency in a university hospital. J Clin Immunol. 2012 Oct;32(5):907-21. doi: 10.1007/s10875-012-9671-6. 

  5. Murray JA1, Rubio-Tapia A. Diarrhoea due to small bowel diseases. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2012 Oct;26(5):581-600. doi: 10.1016/j.bpg.2012.11.013.