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J Invest Dermatol. 1985 Jul;85(1 Suppl):129s-132s.

A study of human serum sickness.


Twelve patients with bone marrow failure, who were undergoing therapy with daily intravenous infusions of horse antithymocyte globulin, were studied for the development of serum sickness. Eleven of 12 patients developed typical signs and symptoms of serum sickness 8-13 days after the initiation of treatment. These included fever, malaise, cutaneous eruptions, arthralgias, gastrointestinal disturbances, and lymphadenopathy. Eleven of 12 patients developed high levels of circulating immune complexes during serum sickness. All 12 patients also had concomitant decreases of serum C3 and C4 levels. In addition to urticarial and/or morbilliform eruptions, 8 of 11 patients also developed a serpiginous band of erythema along the sides of the fingers, hands, toes, or feet as an early cutaneous sign of serum sickness. Direct immunofluorescence of lesional skin biopsies during serum sickness revealed deposits of immunoglobulin or complement in the walls of small cutaneous blood vessels in 3 of 5 patients. These findings indicate that circulating immune complexes play a central role in the pathophysiology of human sickness.

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