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August 27, 2020

Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) is a life-saving treatment manufactured from human plasma. It is used to treat a host of rare and chronic conditions, some of which include primary immune deficiency diseases (PIDDs), Kawasaki disease, and hereditary angioedema. IVIG has come a long way since it was first used in 1952, and today it is a widely-used product that is considered to be safe. Here’s a look at how IVIG therapy came to be.

Fractionation and Intramuscular Immune Globulin (IMIG)

There are several scientific discoveries and events that contributed to the creation of IVIG treatments. One notable discovery that helped make IVIG treatments possible is plasma fractionation, the process of separating the various components in blood plasma.

The invention of fractionation was born out of necessity during WWII. Countless American soldiers were bleeding out on the battlefield and going into shock before they had the chance to receive medical aid. Dr. Edwin J. Cohn, a biochemist and protein scientist, stepped in to help and figured out a way to individually separate the proteins in human plasma so that albumin, the chief protein constituent of plasma, could be quickly administered and increase blood volume.

In 1941, Dr. Cohn was commissioned by the Department of the Navy to develop a large-scale fractionation process to separate albumin from plasma. More than 2 million units of albumin were manufactured as a result of his invention and purified immune globulin treatments were made possible. The first human immune globulin treatments were intramuscular immune globulin (IMIG) injections that were extremely painful when administered, but life-altering for immunocompromised patients nonetheless.

First Generation IVIGs

The first generation of IVIGs came to be after Dr. Ogden Bruton, an Army lieutenant colonel and practicing pediatrician, successfully administered immune globulin as a subcutaneous treatment to an 8-year-old boy who had congenital agammaglobulinemia. Dr. Charles A. Janeway Jr., an immunologist from Harvard School of Medicine, subsequently used Bruton’s work to establish IM dosages of immune globulins as a treatment for primary immune deficiency (PIDD) patients. These immune globulin injections became a standard treatment for PIDD patients between 1950 and 1960.

By 1970, the first generation of intravenous immune globulins were created and patients were able to receive large amounts of immune globulin for the first time, which resulted in fewer infections for PIDD patients. IVIG treatments were also found to be effective against previously untreatable diseases, like Kawasaki syndrome.

Second Generation IVIGs

The first generation of IVIGs were far from perfect and the use of pepsin, a naturally occurring enzyme, to break apart proteins decreased the immune globulin activity. Thankfully, by the mid-1980s they were able to figure out a way to use sugars and amino acids to make the products more tolerable in large doses, which meant patients could receive large quantities of IVIGs with fewer associated side effects. 

Third Generation IVIGs

To improve the safety of IVIGs and prevent the possibility of virus transmission, steps such as solvent-detergent and pasteurization were added to the third generation of IVIGs. These effectively destroyed harmful viruses and unwanted organisms, making the treatment even safer. This manufacturing practice became the new standard in the 1990s. 

Fourth Generation IVIGs

The IVIGs that are available today are fourth generation IVIGs. They are safer and better tolerated than prior generations, and they are used to treat patients with rare diseases around the world. 

IVIG treatments have drastically improved over the years and their safety and efficacy have made it possible for immunocompromised patients can receive the treatments they need with minimal risk. To help create this life-changing product for patients in need, book your next appointment at a Canadian Plasma Resources centre near you. Every donation makes a difference in someone’s life.


January 30, 2020

Donated source plasma, the yellowish liquid component of blood, is used exclusively to manufacture commercial drugs known as plasma products. These plasma products serve as lifesaving therapies for patients living with rare and chronic conditions. One such plasma product that is used to treat individuals that have immunodeficiency diseases is intravenous immunoglobulin therapy (IVIg).

First used in 1952 to treat primary immune deficiency diseases, a group of diseases that are characterized by compromised immune system function, intravenous immunoglobulin therapy has since become a plasma product that Canadians with immune system disorders rely on to boost their immunity and help their body fight off potentially fatal infections. Read on to learn more about the ins and outs of intravenous immunoglobulin therapy.

Conditions IVIg Can Treat

Intravenous immunoglobulin therapy is used to treat a whole host of conditions that cause a patient’s immune system to be compromised. Some of these conditions include:

  • Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
  • Chronic lymphocytic lymphoma
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Immune deficiencies like immune thrombocytopenic purpura
  • Kawasaki disease
  • Lupus
  • Myositis
  • Multifocal motor neuropathy
  • Neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis
  • Other rare and chronic diseases

The Important Role of Plasma in IVIg

Lifesaving intravenous immunoglobulin therapy treatments would not be possible without plasma donations. Immunoglobulin is a component of blood plasma that contains important antibodies needed to fight infections and disease. To make effective immunoglobulin therapy treatments, the pooled antibodies of thousands of donors are needed since a diverse collection of antibodies better equip individuals to fight off the plethora of foreign substances their body may encounter.

Donors are thoroughly screened to ensure the plasma they are donating is healthy. Once the immunoglobulin is acquired from the blood plasma of donors it is then tested for infectious diseases and purified before it is safely administered as a therapy.

How IVIg Works

As its name suggests, intravenous immunoglobulin therapy is a form of intravenous treatment that is infused into the veins of the recipient. It is used to replace antibodies that a patient’s own immune system should be making and is usually necessary for a patient’s lifetime.

Every three to four weeks, patients living with immune system disorders need to be administered IVIg treatment to keep their immune system strong since roughly half of the infused antibodies get metabolized in this time period. Healthcare professionals use a sterile needle to access a patient’s vein then let the immunoglobulin flow from a bag into a tube in their arm for about two to four hours.

Most patients feel their best immediately after IVIg treatment as this is when the highest amount of immunoglobulin is in their body. Some side effects of this treatment may include muscle or joint aches, a mild fever, or headaches just after the infusion, though most individuals tolerate the treatment extremely well.

There you have it, everything you need to know about the wonder drug that is intravenous immunoglobulin therapy. This lifesaving plasma product has been helping people with rare conditions lead healthy and productive lives for over well over 60 years now and it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. To donate your plasma and change the lives of patients in need for the better, book your next appointment at Canadian Plasma Resources today.