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Antigen bound to antibody.
Diseases resulting from immune complex formation can be placed broadly into three groups :
The combined effects of a low-grade persistent infection (such as occur with haemolytic
or staphylococcal infective endocarditis, or with a parasite such as Plasmodium vivax, or in viral hepatitis),
together with a weak response, leads to chronic immune complex formation with the eventual deposition
of complexes in body tissues.
Immune complex disease is a frequent complication of disease where the continued production of antibodies
to a self-antigen leads to prolonged immune complex formation. The mononuclear phagocytes, erythrocytes, and
complement systems (which are responsible for the removal of complexes) become overloaded and the complexes
are deposited in body tissues, as occurs in .
Immune complexes may be formed at body surfaces, notably in the lungs following repeated inhalation of
material from moulds, plants or animals. This is exemplified in Farmer's lung and Pigeon
fancier's lung, where there are circulating antibodies to the actinomycete found in mouldy hay, or
to pigeon antigens. Both diseases are forms of extrinsic allergic alveolitis and they only occur after
repeated exposure to the antigen.