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Medical News & Perspectives
October 18, 2006

Blood Transfusions for Flu Pandemic?

JAMA. 2006;296(15):1827. doi:10.1001/jama.296.15.1827

Drawing from conclusions of studies published shortly after the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, researchers suggest that transfusions of convalescent whole blood, plasma, or serum from individuals who recover from avian influenza during a pandemic might be useful for treating others infected during such an outbreak (Luke TC et al. Ann Intern Med. [published online ahead of print August 29, 2006]).

The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic killed between 20 million and 100 million individuals worldwide. As of September 25, 2006, 249 cases of confirmed avian flu, including 146 deaths, have been reported to the World Health Organization. Because the Spanish flu (an H1N1 strain) and bird flu (an H5N1 strain) are both subtypes of influenza A virus, reports from almost 9 decades ago may be useful for investigators studying infection and treatment issues related to a potential bird flu pandemic.