Fresh frozen plasma and intravenous immunoglobulin are used as prophylaxis against, and for the treatment of, neonatal infection. It is assumed that any beneficial effect is mediated through the humoral immune factors contained in each preparation. The effect of fresh frozen plasma and intravenous immunoglobulin on humoral immune markers (immunoglobulins and IgG subclasses, complement components and activation products, and C reactive protein) was investigated over a 24 hour period after their randomised administration to 67 infants with suspected infection. Thirty infants without suspicion of infection were studied as controls. Compared with control infants, infants with suspected infection had increased concentrations of C reactive protein, reduced concentrations of fibronectin, and increased concentrations of the complement activation marker C3d, but similar concentrations of IgG, IgG subclasses, IgA, and IgM. After intravenous immunoglobulin treatment (500 mg/kg) concentrations of total IgG and all IgG subclasses increased, as did IgA and complement component C4. Concentrations of C reactive protein decreased after intravenous immunoglobulin treatment and were significantly lower than baseline after 24 hours. In contrast, no change in IgG or IgG subclass concentrations occurred after fresh frozen plasma administration. At 24 hours after fresh frozen plasma administration, concentrations of IgA, IgM, and C4 were significantly higher than baseline and serum IgA was significantly higher than in infants tested 24 hours after intravenous immunoglobulin treatment. These results confirm the rational basis for intravenous immunoglobulin treatment but question the value of fresh frozen plasma, particularly in the light of its attendant problems as an untreated blood product.
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