Ever since the outbreak of COVID-19, that originated in the city of Wuhan, more than a million have contracted Corona virus disease and more than 59000 people have lost their lives.
No specific treatment or vaccine has yet been effective against SARS-CoV-2.
However, several supportive treatments like medication to reduce fever and supplemental oxygen apart from drugs such as Remdesivir and Chloroquine may be administered by the doctors.
For those patients with SARS whose condition deteriorated even after the treatment, convalescent plasma has been used as a last resort. A shorter hospital stay and lower mortality has been observed for the patients treated with convalescent plasma.
In 2014, the WHO recommended the use of Convalescent Plasma collected from the patients who have recovered from the Ebola disease. The Convalescent Plasma therapy involves collection of plasma from recovered patients and using it for clinical treatment of the patients.
According to Zhang Dingyu, president of Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province, a therapy for the novel coronavirus that involves the plasma of recovered patients has started to show effects. The plasma contains large volumes of antibodies for the deadly pathogen, Zhang told a daily news conference.
More than 10 severe coronavirus patients have received the plasma therapy at a hospital in Wuhan since Feb 8. Within 12 to 24 hours of the therapy, patients have seen a decline in indicators of inflammation.
So How’s it done?
The patient who has recovered from an illness have antibodies in their blood plasma ie the liquid part of their blood.
The plasma is then purified and injected into the ailing patient, which provides a “passive immunity” to the patient until the patient’s body is able to produce it’s own antibodies.
When given to a susceptible person, this antibody will circulate in the blood, reach tissues, and provide protection against infection.
According to clinical results, 12 to 24 hours after the patients received the treatment, they have shown improved clinical symptoms such as blood oxygen saturation improving comprehensively.
Those nurses and doctors who are the first to respond are at high risk to contract COVID-19, who subsequently would have to be quarantined thereby threatening to collapse the healthcare system. Those doctors and nurses, if administrated with Convalescent Plasma could avoid this period of quarantine which would allow them to continue with their critical functions as healthcare service providers.
The good news is that the US Food and Drug Administration has approved nationwide trials for Convalescent Plasma therapy for the treatment of COVID-19.
“The FDA had played a key role in organizing a partnership between industry, academic institutions, and government agencies to facilitate expanded access to convalescent plasma. This is certainly a great example of how we can all come together to take swift action to help the American people during a crisis.”FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn
Though it appears to be an efficient way of treatment, finding donors, extracting antibodies from blood plasma and administering, all with the informed consent of the donors and the recipient and then keeping track of the whole process will prove to be a ticklish task.