Experimental Treatment Uses Plasma From Coronavirus Survivors To Fight Infection

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With COVID-19 straining precious resources in healthcare systems around the globe, those fighting to mitigate the virus's damage and save as many lives as possible are looking at all strategies and ideas presented to them.

The race for a vaccine is on, with dozens of labs working on the problem using a variety of approaches, but regardless, any vaccine is expected to be 12-18 months away.

However, medical experts believe those who have already recovered from the virus could be a big help in lieu of a vaccine.

Unsplash | 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz

Hand-washing is great for those who aren't sick with the virus already, but for those who have been infected and the front line healthcare workers treating them, doctors in the U.K. and U.S. are preparing experimental treatments involving blood plasma taken from those who have already recovered from COVID-19.

When people recover from an illness, it's because their immune systems have developed antibodies that have successfully fought off the virus.

Unsplash | Fusion Medical Animation

Those antibodies will be present in great numbers in the patient's blood stream, so the theory is that those antibodies will be able to help other patients already fighting the disease on their own to recover.

Both New York State and the U.K. have announced plans to use blood plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 on a trial basis.

For the time being, this treatment will be restricted to those in critical condition, and in the U.K., those who are exposed to the virus often, like front line healthcare workers, The Guardian reported.

While this treatment is experimental, there is reason to be optimistic.

As a paper recently published in The Lancet explained, "convalescent plasma" was previously used in the SARS outbreak. Studies after that outbreak was over showed that patients who received the plasma "showed a shorter hospital stay and lower mortality."

In the case of COVID-19, Chinese researchers experimented with plasma taken from recovered patients on five people, all of them critically ill.

In the Chinese trial, all five patients survived.

Unsplash | Ashkan Forouzani

As Business Insider reported, the patients ranged in age from 36 to 73, and all received plasma for an extended period of time, between 10 and 22 days.

For four of the five patients, their body temperatures normalized within three days of starting the treatment, and four of the five also had their breathing difficulties resolve in 12 days. However, only three had been discharged from the hospital by the time the paper was published.

Although the U.S. and U.K. initiatives are only trials, researchers realize that time is of the essence.

Unsplash | Markus Spiske

"Start-up will need to be faster than is normal, with most other trials usually taking months or years to get approvals and to begin," University of Glasgow's Professor David Tappin told The Guardian.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed that the state wouldn't be wasting any time. "It’s only a trial, it’s a trial for people who are in serious condition, but the New York State Department of Health has been working on this with New York’s best health care agencies, and we think it shows promise and we’re going to be starting that this week," he said, according to Fox News.

h/t: The Guardian, Fox News, Business Insider

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