Serum sickness is a reaction similar to an allergy. Specifically, it is an immune system reaction to certain medications, injected proteins used to treat immune conditions, or antiserum, the liquid part of blood that contains
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Plasma is the clear fluid portion of blood. It does not contain blood cells, but it does contain many proteins, including antibodies, which are formed as part of the immune response to protect against infection.
Antiserum is produced from the plasma of a person or animal that has immunity against a particular infection or poisonous substance. Antiserum may be used to protect a person who has been exposed to a potentially dangerous microorganism against which the person has not been immunized. For example, you may receive a certain type of antiserum injection if you have been exposed to
During serum sickness, the immune system falsely identifies a protein in antiserum as a potentially harmful substance (
Certain medications (such as penicillin, cefaclor, and sulfa) can cause a similar reaction. Unlike other
Injected proteins such as antithymocyte globulin (used to treat organ transplant rejection) and rituximab (used to treat immune disorders and cancers) cause serum sickness reactions.
Blood products may also cause serum sickness.