Study finds serum an effective tool against respiratory diseases

A recent British study explored the safety of using convalescent serum to fight acute severe viral diseases for which no effective countermeasures currently exist.

The results, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, found that use of serum decreases hospital lengths of stay and confer a statistically lower mortality rate.

The study examined 32 studies of hospitalized patients infected with influenza or SARS who were given convalescent plasma, serum or hyperimmune immunoglobulin. The benefit of using the serum was seen with SARS and H5N1 influenza, as well as both 2009 and 1918 H1N1 influenza.

If an outbreak of a severe viral disease with high morbidity rates were to occur, doctors would likely feel compelled to take measures to influence the clinical course rather than supportive care if there was no ready-to-use antiviral treatment available. One approach would be to use antibodies harvested from the serum of those who survived the disease.

The study said that while using serum to take a targeted approach to treatment is effective, the adequate screening and processing of sera might be a rate-limiting step. The study concluded that future explorations of using serum should include randomized trials and the development of a mechanism whereby serum from survivors can be quickly made available in the event of an outbreak.