Diseases & Research

Opportunistic Infections

Understanding Opportunistic Infections in cancer patients

Herpesvirus, viral and fungal infections that take advantage of a compromised immune system are often referred to as opportunistic infections.

Many of these infections pose little to no threat in healthy populations. However, they can pose a very serious or even deadly risk to patients whose immune systems have been weakened due to their specific cancer or during a bone marrow or stem cell transplantation procedure.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center takes a comprehensive approach in studying infections in order to improve survival rates for patients with compromised immune systems, such as bone marrow and stem cell transplant recipients or HIV/AIDS patients.

These infections are typically referred to as “opportunistic” when they strike patients with weakened immune systems and can pose a serious or even life-threatening danger.

Through its Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division (VIDD), Fred Hutch researchers have studied and developed new approaches to preventing, detecting and treating these infections. This work has helped to establish national guidelines for infection care in clinical settings and reduced infection-related mortality rates among transplant recipients.

Learn more about the Center’s research in this field:

  • Fungal Infections
    There is a wide variety of fungal infections, including mold, yeast and others, that poses a threat to patients with compromised immune systems.

  • Herpesvirus Infections
    Herpesviruses are a family of viruses that result in a variety of complications for patients. Some of these viruses can be very dangerous for immunocompromised patients and even promote the development of certain cancers.

  • Respiratory Viral Infections
    Respiratory viral infections typically have mild symptoms, but patients with weakened immune systems are at risk of disease progression with sometimes fatal consequences.
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