What Are the Causes for Low Absolute Monocytes?

Monocytes are a white blood cell that help the body to fight off infections. A low number of monocytes, called monocytopenia, is the result of a decrease in the overall level of white blood cells.

How Monocytes Protect the Body There are a variety of white blood cells that work together to help the body fight infections and strengthen the immune system. Each type of white blood cells operates differently, but the main purpose of all white blood cells is to act as warriors for the body when it comes to fighting infections, killing bacteria, removing cancerous cells and controlling allergen response. The monocytes help to fight infections, work in conjunction with other white blood cells to remove dead or damaged tissue and regulate the immune response, according to Merck Manual. The other white blood cells that work together with monocytes include lymphocytes, neutrophils, basophils and eosinophils.

The body creates monocytes in the bone marrow and then filters it into the blood. Once in the blood, monocytes transfer to different tissues and turn into macrophages. The macrophages basically scour the immune system looking for invaders to destroy while responding to information from the white blood cells.

Typical Monocyte Levels A normal monocyte count in a healthy adult is 0.2 to 1.0×10 or a total count of 2 to 10 percent of overall white blood cells circulating in the bloodstream. Doctors must perform blood work in order to calculate the overall monocyte count. A variety of reasons can lead to a low monocyte level including a virus, cancer, infections, autoimmune disorders and certain medications. People receiving chemotherapy will automatically have a lower monocyte level because chemo medications affect overall white blood cell count.

Treatment for Low Absolute Monocyte Levels Tests for determining the monocyte level are often accompanied by a variety of other tests to help doctors determine the cause of low white blood count, notes the Mayo Clinic. Antibiotics may be prescribed if the cause is an infection or bacteria. Intravenous therapy is another option to help boost the globulin in the bloodstream to strengthen the immune system so it can rebuild the white blood cell count naturally. A low white blood cell count opens people up to contracting viruses or bacteria more easily, so a doctor may advise the wearing of a mask when going out in public, frequent hand washing or even wearing gloves to help avoid germs while the count is low. A doctor may also recommend dietary changes to help increase the growth of monocyte levels and other white blood cell counts. Overall, the treatment for a low monocyte count will depend upon the reasons for the reduction in monocytes.

MonoMAC Syndrome In rare cases, some people have a complete lack of monocyte blood cells. This is a genetic disorder that affects the bone marrow known as a monocytopenia and mycobacterial infection, or MonoMAC, syndrome. Doctors can perform genetic testing to diagnose this syndrome and discuss the possibility of performing a bone marrow transplant to help reverse the syndrome and place monocytes into the body. Anyone with a lack of any monocytes will suffer from infections, especially of the skin, caused by microorganisms that wouldn’t normally affect a person with a normal level of monocytes. Doctors can prescribe medications to help fight the infections, but, without a bone marrow transplant, continuous infections are likely.