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PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e49147. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049147. Epub 2012 Nov 8.

The stability of complement-mediated bactericidal activity in human serum against Salmonella.

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Medical Research Council Centre for Immune Regulation and Clinical Immunology Service, Institute of Biomedical Research, School of Immunity and Infection, College of Medicine and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom.


The complement cascade includes heat-labile proteins and care is required when handling serum in order to preserve its functional integrity. We have previously used a whole human serum bactericidal assay to show that antibody and an intact complement system are required in blood for killing of invasive isolates of Salmonella. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the conditions under which human serum can be stored and manipulated while maintaining complement integrity. Serum bactericidal activity against Salmonella was maintained for a minimum of 35 days when stored at 4°C, eight days at 22°C and 54 hours at 37°C. Up to three freeze-thaw cycles had no effect on the persistence of bactericidal activity and hemolytic complement assays confirmed no effect on complement function. Delay in the separation of serum for up to four days from clotted blood stored at 22°C did not affect bactericidal activity. Dilution of serum resulted in an increased rate of loss of bactericidal activity and so serum should be stored undiluted. These findings indicate that the current guidelines concerning manipulation and storage of human serum to preserve complement integrity and function leave a large margin for safety with regards to bactericidal activity against Salmonella. The study provides a scheme for determining the requirements for serum handling in relation to functional activity of complement in other systems.

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