Blood of bird flu survivors could treat other patients: research

Research has suggested that blood products taken from people who have recovered from bird flu could be useful for treating other patients in the event of a pandemic, national newspaper The Times reported on Wednesday.

In a new study, a team examined eight contemporary pieces of medical research into the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, which killed as many as 40 million people, and found that transfusions of blood plasma from convalescents, sometimes performed to treat new patients, appeared to have beneficial effects, raising the prospect that a similar approach could be used against H5N1 influenza, the report said.

The study added weight to the argument presented by leading British scientist Sir Peter Lachmann, Emeritus Professor of Immunology at the University of Cambridge, who holds that antibodies could be taken from recovering flu patients and used to treat others who have developed the disease, it said.

However, the proposal differs from the blood plasma idea as it involves separating antibodies known as immunoglobulins, which are already used widely against diseases such as hepatitis A, chicken pox and measles.

The liquid plasma part of blood taken from a patient who has recovered is mixed with alcohol and separated into its components by fractionation. One of the resulting fractions is rich in immunoglobulins that the immune system has made to fight the pathogen in question, and these can then be given to other patients exposed to the disease, according to the scientists.

Scientists have not yet used the approach against flu in humans as existing vaccines and antivirals are more effective and less risky, but research in mice has suggested that immunoglobulins would be an effective way of alleviating symptoms.

Sir Peter said it would be sensible to start recruiting volunteers to be immunized against H5N1, whose blood could then be used to provide antibodies.

Source: Xinhua

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