Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Treatment of severe aplastic anaemia with antilymphocyte globulin or bone-marrow transplantation.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1981; 282 doi: (Published 14 March 1981) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1981;282:860
  1. B Speck,
  2. A Gratwohl,
  3. C Nissen,
  4. U Leibundgut,
  5. D Ruggero,
  6. B Osterwalder,
  7. H P Burri,
  8. P Cornu,
  9. M Jeannet


    Fifty-three patients with severe aplastic anaemia were admitted to this hospital between January 1976 and June 1980, of whom three arrived in terminal condition and died before treatment for their basic disease could be given. Thus 50 patients were treated and evaluated in a prospective study according to one protocol. Eighteen patients with an HLA-identical sibling underwent bone-marrow transplantation with the aim of achieving haematopoietic chimerism. Thirty-two patients without an HLA-identical sibling were given antilymphocyte globulin with or without an infusion of HLA-haplotype-identical marrow. All these 32 patients received low-dose androgens after the procedure. In the first group eight patients (44%) survived. In the two other groups, 22 patients survived (69%), of whom 20 were completely self-sustaining (63%). Engraftment and graft-versus-host disease did not occur in the group who received antilymphocyte globulin and haploidentical marrow, and the haematopoietic reconstitutions in these patients were all autologous. These results confirm the efficacy of antilymphocyte globulin in the treatment of severe aplastic anaemia and show that such treatment is at least as good as bone-marrow transplantation. Its mechanism of action remains unknown, but most patients with aplastic anaemia have a pool of haematopoietic stem cells able to repopulate the marrow after this type of treatment.