Swine flu could be treated with transfusions from H1N1 survivors

New research has shown that transfusions of blood plasma could save the lives of severely infected patients.

Virus: Plasma transfusions could beat swine flu.
© C S Goldsmith and A Balish, CDC

Swine flu deaths can be prevented by giving severely ill victims blood plasma from recovered patients, new research has shown.

The transfusion "vaccine" containing antibodies against the virus more than halved death rates among hospital intensive care patients.

Although the study was small, the Chinese authors say "convalescent plasma" treatment could help to save patients with potentially fatal flu infections.

Since the start of the flu season last October, 112 people have died with the virus in the UK. Of these, 95 had the pandemic H1N1 swine flu strain.

Swine flu, which emerged in April 2009, has been linked to more than 13,000 deaths around the world, according to Health Protection Agency figures released in January 2010.

During the 2009/2010 season a total of 360 people in the UK lost their lives after catching the virus.

Most of those infected by swine flu suffer mild symptoms and quickly recover. But in some cases the virus can lead to life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia or kidney failure.

Convalescent plasma therapy involves giving severely infected patients transfusions of plasma from others who have recovered from the same infection.

Plasma is the yellowish liquid component of blood, stripped of the blood cells that are normally suspended in it.

The aim of convalescent plasma therapy is to transfer protective antibodies from one individual to another.

Antibodies are immune system proteins that neutralise harmful foreign bodies such as viruses or mark them out for destruction.

The new study involved 93 seriously ill swine flu patients who needed intensive care in Hong Kong hospitals between September 2009 and June 2010.

Of these, 20 agreed to receive 500 millilitre transfusions of plasma donated by patients who had earlier fought off the H1N1 virus. The remaining 73 who declined treatment acted as comparison "controls".

In total, 20% of the treated group died - less than half the proportion of control patients, 55% of whom lost their lives.

Viral load, a measurement of the number of active viruses in the blood, also decreased at a faster rate among patients given the plasma transfusions.

None of the treated patients developed any adverse reactions.

The researchers, whose findings are reported in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, wrote: "This study has demonstrated that convalescent plasma treatment may have a place in the treatment of patients with severe H1N1 2009 infection."

The treatment both reduced viral load and dampened dangerous inflammatory responses, said the scientists.

Natural antibodies were also less likely than those in artificial vaccines to allow the survival of an "escape mutant" strain of the virus.

Study author Dr Kowk-Yung Yuen, from the University of Hong Kong, said: "One of the benefits of convalescent plasma treatment in patients with severe influenza A infection is that it does not suffer from the problem of drug resistance.

"Additionally, it would remain effective until the virus has changed significantly enough to affect immunity. This form of treatment may be useful in future novel viral infections."

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
ShowHide
Forgot password?
This field is required. At least 6 characters please. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
At least 6 characters please
ShowHide
This field is required. At least 6 characters please.
You have to be 16 or over to join
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
Type your full postcode and select your address This field is required. It doesn't look like you've entered a valid postcode. Can't find your address? Confirm the details you've given us are correct by clicking here

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, including our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. Any issues contact us.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.

Thanks

We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.

Oops!

Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.

Oops!

Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.

http://shows.stv.tv/real-heroes/voting

Oops!

Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.