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Plasma therapy improves survival in severely ill flu patients

January 19, 2011|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
  • A plasma transfusion can help severely ill flu patients.
A plasma transfusion can help severely ill flu patients. (National Institutes of…)

Giving plasma from someone who has recovered from an infection to a person who is acutely ill with that same infection is an old medical trick. Researchers reported Wednesday that the therapy can work on people with severe H1N1 influenza.

Researchers in Hong Kong gave plasma donated from patients who had recovered from H1N1 to 20 patients who were receiving intensive care because of a severe case of H1N1 flu. An additional 73 patients who were also severely ill with the virus but who received the standard care provided a comparison group.
The death rate in the plasma group was 20% compared with 55% in the standard-treatment group. None of the 20 patients developed side effects due to the treatment, which is called convalescent plasma therapy.

The therapy has the advantage of not becoming resistant to drugs used to treat influenza. Researchers suggested the technique could be useful for other new viruses that emerge.

The study is published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
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