Key messages

• There exists a non-specific and a specific immune response against a foreign substance.

• Drugs influence the immune process by affecting neutrophils, killer cells, lymphocytes, and cytokine production and function.

• Immunosuppressive drugs include steroids, cyclosporine (cyclosporin), antilymphocyte antibodies, and chemotherapeutic agents.

• Treatment of the immunocompromised patient in intensive care involves careful prophylactic and empirical therapeutic use of antibiotics as well as immunomodulating substances such as granulocyte colony-stimulating factor and immunoglobulins.

• A number of drugs commonly used in the intensive care unit can affect immune function.

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