Lesson learnt from 1918 Spanish flu uses plasma to treat H1N1

A TREATMENT used in the 1918 Spanish influenza A (H1N1) pandemic may reduce deaths from severe swine flu, a study shows.

Drawing on reports of the 1918 outbreak and the 2006 bird flu (H5N1) infection, Hong Kong researchers in 2009 tested the theory that convalescent plasma might be effective against the new H1N1 pandemic.

In a prospective cohort study, researchers administered plasma from patients who had recovered from swine flu to 20 intensive-care patients out of a cohort of 93 with severe infection.

Only 20% of the plasma patients died, compared with 55% of controls with similarly severe disease.

The authors said one benefit of using convalescent plasma treatment was that it avoided resistance to antiviral drugs.

Clinical Infectious Diseases 2011; 52:510-19