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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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Plasma Fix for Bird Flu?

Blood Plasma From Bird Flu Survivors May Help Other Bird Flu Patients
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 3, 2007 -- Chinese doctors may have found a new approach for treating bird flu: Give bird flu patients plasma from bird flu survivors.

Antibodies in the bird flu survivors' plasma might help bird flu patients recover, the doctors report.

At least, that's what happened when they tried that technique on a Chinese bird flu patient.

The doctors -- who included Boping Zhou, MD, PhD, of the Shenzhen Donghu Hospital in Shenzhen, China -- describe that case in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The bird flu patient was a 31-year-old man who came to a Shenzhen clinic in June 2006 with a high fever, chills, and a cough. He had bird flu (also called avian influenza).

The doctors gave the man the flu drug Tamiflu. But the man still needed more help.

Zhou's team gave the bird flu patient three plasma transfusions from an unrelated Chinese person who had recovered from bird flu a few months earlier.

Plasma is the liquid part of blood. It contains antibodies, which fight infection.

After receiving the plasma transfusions, the bird flu patient had higher levels of antibodies that fight the H5N1 bird flu virus. He recovered and was released from hospital in early August 2006.

The bird flu patient and the bird flu survivor had had H5N1 bird flu viruses that were genetically very similar.

The results suggest that the plasma transfusion technique "may be a viable option" for bird flu treatment, Zhou and colleagues conclude.

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