2017 Volume 66 Issue 4 Pages 57-64
Blood serum from immunized humans or animals (e.g., horses) contains relevant antibodies and has been used as serum therapy to treat many diseases or envenomation events. The effectiveness of blood serum was initially discovered in 1890 when Kitasato and von Behring observed the effectiveness of this type of therapy against diphtheria and tetanus. Serum therapies played an important role in the advancement of modern medicine prior to the development of penicillin and steroids. At present, several types of serum therapy remain in clinical use. However, some physicians have a limited understanding of the nature and the benefits of serum therapy and the factors that require particular attention. In this review, we set out to clarify the benefits, cautions, and potential applications of serum therapy in the context of conditions such as gas gangrene, diphtheria, botulism, and tetanus and bites from three snake species (mamushi, habu, and yamakagashi) and the redback spider. It is hoped that this review will help clinicians to learn about clinical serum therapies and become familiar with their applications.