The researchers say that during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1920, the patients who received blood transfusions from people who had recovered had improved the condition of the people who were still suffering from the flu.
The study, which is a joint project by various groups including the US Navy is due to appear in Annals of Internal Medicine. Health experts fear that if the H5N1 virus mutates it will cause a huge pandemic that will kill millions of people worldwide. Some vaccines are being tried for both humans and animals, but this is a novel approach.
The World Health Organization has warned the world is not ready for a flu pandemic and hence researchers are trying to test available methods to combat the possibility. In the present study researchers said that a single patient who recovers may donate enough blood plasma for others.
They examined the Spanish flu outbreak as it bore a close resemblance to bird flu. Dr John Treanor, an expert in infectious diseases at the University of Rochester said other viral diseases could also be treated in the same way. "Although many logistical hurdles exist, controlled clinical studies done now will probably pay a considerable dividend when the pandemic begins. We can, should, and must explore these issues about serotherapy now, in advance of the pandemic."