Background. Administration of convalescent plasma, serum, or hyperimmune immunoglobulin may be of clinical benefit for treatment of severe acute respiratory infections (SARIs) of viral etiology. We conducted a systematic review and exploratory meta-analysis to assess the overall evidence.
Methods. Healthcare databases and sources of grey literature were searched in July 2013. All records were screened against the protocol eligibility criteria, using a 3-stage process. Data extraction and risk of bias assessments were undertaken.
Results. We identified 32 studies of SARS coronavirus infection and severe influenza. Narrative analyses revealed consistent evidence for a reduction in mortality, especially when convalescent plasma is administered early after symptom onset. Exploratory post hoc meta-analysis showed a statistically significant reduction in the pooled odds of mortality following treatment, compared with placebo or no therapy (odds ratio, 0.25; 95% confidence interval, .14–.45; I2 = 0%). Studies were commonly of low or very low quality, lacked control groups, and at moderate or high risk of bias. Sources of clinical and methodological heterogeneity were identified.
Conclusions. Convalescent plasma may reduce mortality and appears safe. This therapy should be studied within the context of a well-designed clinical trial or other formal evaluation, including for treatment of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus CoV infection.