For 30 years, Leanne Preedy has relied on antibodies in blood generously donated by strangers to keep her alive.
Leanne was diagnosed with an immune system disorder at the age of four and requires regular injections of antibodies every few weeks to prevent her from contracting infections that could make her seriously ill or worse.
Leanne, 34, has Common Variable Immunodeficiency (CVID) – those affected lack or have low levels of immunoglobulin G, the most abundant type of antibody in our blood, which plays a key role in fighting infection.
Left untreated, the condition means she’s prone to infections and even a trivial cold can make her seriously ill – or lead to pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs), repeated attacks of which can cause life-threatening lung disease.
As a child, Leanne recalls being “in and out of the hospital more times than my mother, Lorraine, cares to remember, often on oxygen or yet another course of antibiotics.”
Leanne (pictured with children Ravella and Hudson), 34, has Common Variable Immunodeficiency (CVID) – those affected lack or have low levels of immunoglobulin G, the most common type of antibody in our blood, which plays a key role in fighting infections
There is no cure for CVID, but the condition can be treated by regular infusions of drugs containing immunoglobulin to boost antibody levels – which is made by processing donations of blood plasma from members of the public.
In fact, Leanne, a photographer from Ongar, Essex, is one of about 17,000 people in England who receive life-saving immunoglobulin drugs each year.
About half of those require it after treatments such as chemotherapy for cancer or anti-rejection medications after an organ transplant, which are vital in their own right, but both lower antibody levels, leaving patients vulnerable to infections that can then be fatal.
Intravenous immunoglobulin is also used as a treatment for conditions where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, where it attacks the nervous system.
Here it is thought that healthy donated antibodies prevent the harmful ones from continuing the attack on the nerves.
But supplies of this life-saving product were scarce – so short that in August 2021 the NHS admitted that some patients had to receive smaller doses of immunoglobulin or wait longer between infusions; thankfully no lives were directly endangered.
There is no cure for CVID, but the condition can be treated by regular infusions of drugs containing immunoglobulin to increase antibody levels (file photo)
However, such shortages should soon be a thing of the past, after a recent ruling allowed the UK to make its own immunoglobulin for the first time in 20 years.
Currently, 70 percent of the immunoglobulin given to patients by infusion is made by companies in the US, who get it from plasma – the liquid part of the blood that contains infection-fighting antibodies – from donated blood or plasma donations alone.
To do this, blood is taken from the donor’s arm and spun in a centrifuge to separate the plasma from red and white blood cells.
The red blood cells are then returned and the process is repeated until 700 ml of plasma is obtained.
The donor’s body will replenish the plasma in about 48 hours.
The plasma is frozen and stored and the immunoglobulin is separated (by adding salt and ethanol in a process that takes about six months), but recent problems have highlighted the fragility of the supply of this life-saving product.
During the pandemic, plasma donations in the US dropped 20 percent and the price of immunoglobulin products skyrocketed, further impacting global supplies.
In the UK we have depended on imported plasma to make immunoglobulin since 1999 when the government banned the use of plasma from UK donors to help prevent the spread of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), a human variant of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). ) to counteract. ), the so-called mad cow disease, deadly
Dynamic duos – nutrients that work best when consumed together
THIS WEEK: Phenols and fibers
A recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Antioxidants Research Laboratory found that drinking orange juice while eating a bowl of porridge can clear your arteries and prevent heart attacks with twice the effectiveness of eating either breakfast item alone. to take .
The reason? Compounds in oats and orange juice called phenols help stabilize LDL or “bad” cholesterol when consumed together.
“I would recommend replacing the juice with a handful of blueberries,” says registered dietitian Orli Rhodes.
“Like orange juice, blueberries are also high in vitamin C and phenolics — they add natural sweetness to porridge, but the fiber in the whole fruit keeps them from causing blood sugar spikes the way juice does.”
WHAT TO TRY“Add chia seeds to porridge and blueberries — they’re high in omega-3 fatty acids (which help reduce fats in your blood) — giving you the perfect heart-friendly breakfast,” says Orli Rhodes.