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Infections and immunity

Although immunosuppressants help prevent rejection of a new organ, they also slow down the body’s immune system, thus affecting the body’s defense against germs. Transplant recipients can therefore get infections more easily because their immune systems are suppressed. It is also more difficult for transplant recipients to recover from infections, and minor infections can become very serious and even lead to death if untreated.

Common infections in transplant recipients

There are three general time frames during which infection can occur in the post-transplant period: first month, second through sixth month, and after the sixth month.

Time Post-Transplant Likely Source of Infection
0-1 Month
  • urinary tract infection
  • IV line infection
  • wound infection
  • pneumonia
  • human herpes simplex virus
1-6 Month
  • cytomegalovirus (CMV)
  • Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)
  • pneumonia
  • central nervous system (CNS) infection
After 6 months
  • hepatitis b/c
  • acute and chronic opportunistic infections

Take extra precautions

Organ recipients should be aware of ways to combat germs and be sure to call their doctors at any sign of infection. Prevention of illness is the key to a healthy life, and check-ups are vital to preventing illness.

Because the risk of bacterial and fungal infection is greatest in the first few weeks after your surgery, it may be necessary to take the following precautions:

  • Avoid indoor crowded places like stores, movies, restaurants and churches in the first few months after transplantation.
  • Avoid people with known infections or illnesses.
  • Avoid taking care of animals.
  • Avoid working outside or in your garden.
  • Wash your hands frequently–it’s a safe and effective way to stop some infections before they start.
  • Good dental care is important. You should brush and floss daily, and see the dentist regularly. You may also need an antibiotic before routine dental cleaning visits.
  • If you get a cut or scrape, cleanse the wound and apply a clean, dry dressing. If any sign of infection develops (fever, pain swelling or redness), contact your doctor.
  • Avoid buildings unders construction or destruction.

In addition, be sure to talk to your doctor about medications, including vaccines that may be recommended to keep you healthy.

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