Graft versus Host Disease occurs when healthy donor stem cells recognize the patient's tissues as foreign and attack them.
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When you receive stem cells donated from other people, your body knows the difference. Immune systems are trained to attack and destroy "foreign" (not from your body) proteins, whether they are bacteria, viruses, cancer cells or transplanted tissues. The differences between your body's and the donor's cells lead to a fight and attempts of one to destroy the other.
Sometimes, the healthy donor stem cells recognize the patient's tissues as foreign and attack them. This is the "transplant against the patient," or "Graft versus Host Disease" (GvHD).
Commonly, Graft versus Host Disease is divided into acute GvHD and chronic GvHD.
Acute Graft versus Host Disease occurs within the first 100 days after transplant, but most often between 25 and 60 days after stem cell infusion.
Chronic Graft versus Host Disease occurs beyond day 100 after transplant and may occur up to several years after transplant.
Acute Graft versus Host Disease can lead to chronic GvHD, but chronic GvHD may occur without any evidence of previous acute GvHD.