Blood plasma from those who have recovered from COVID-19 has proved effective in treating the illness
A US trial has shown that plasma transfusions are a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19.
On March 28, 2020, Houston Methodist medical centre in the United States became the first in the nation to transfuse plasma (the liquid part of blood) from recovered COVID-19 patients into two critically ill patients. Such transfusions are not yet approved for widespread use, but doctors received permission for the first two procedures under emergency-use guidelines. They then got approval for a trial. Of the 25 severely ill COVID-19 patients who took part in the trial, 19 improved and 11 were discharged from hospital.
The study found patients suffered no adverse side effects as a result of the treatment, which involves transfusing blood plasma from those who have had and recovered from the virus. The therapy is effective because those who have recovered from COVID-19 develop antibodies in their blood that fight off and prevent future infections by the virus.
The findings of the trial were published in the American Journal of Pathology on May 26.
“While physician scientists around the world scrambled to test new drugs and treatments against the COVID-19 virus, convalescent serum therapy emerged as potentially one of the most promising strategies,” said James Musser, of the study’s authors and the chair of the Department of Pathology and Genomic Medicine at the centre. “With no proven treatments or cures for COVID-19 patients, now was the time in our history to move ahead rapidly.”
Only those in critical condition took part in the study, and Musser said the medical centre is hoping to move forward with a randomized controlled trial to better assess the effectiveness of the treatment in less serious cases of the illness.
The centre has also tested the treatment on patients who weren’t included in this particular trial, noting that since late March, 50 out of 74 additional patients have been discharged from hospital and are on their way to recovery.