Hong Kong extracts swine flu antibodies8th February 2011
Doctors in Hong Kong will make use of this year's swine flu epidemic by taking antibody samples from patients who fared well and giving them to severely ill patients.
The doctors hope to enrol 70 people with good antibodies in the study, especially since the amount of people successfully producing flu antibodies is generally lower this winter than last winter.
Kelvin To, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong's microbiology department, said he believed that this year's flu virus would prove hardier than most.
Owing to the dry cold and the length of the winter this year, this year's version of the swine flu virus may have an increased chance of surviving over other types of swine flu.
In the last few weeks, H1N1 swine flu was responsible for the deaths of 10 people in Hong Kong, and put 51 into intensive care units, some in critical condition.
The swine flu virus accounts for about 90% of all cases of flu, up from 40% last winter, when a seasonal flu variety predominated.
The researchers began working on the study by focusing on the 'cytokine effect,' a kind of immune system overdrive which kills the virus as well as the body.
They found that, when the cytokine effect accompanied a severe flu infection, the body dropped its defenses against certain types of bacteria, which worsened the flu even further.
The researchers said that immunoglobulin G2 was important in human defences against bacteria that caused secondary infection in patients with severe influenza.
An earlier study showed that severe flu patients benefitted from blood plasma that contained antibodies.
So, the researchers harvested immunoglobin G2 antibodies from the blood of patients who survived the viral infection.
To said that he and his colleagues believed that concentrated antibodies would be much more effective than ordinary convalescent plasma.
Seasonal flu can claim as many as half a million deaths per year.
H1N1 swine flu also infects young adults and children much more readily than does seasonal flu.
Last month, a 27-year old woman died in Hong Kong after contracting swine flu.
During the 2009 swine flu pandemic, 80 people in Hong Kong died of the virus.
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