- More anecdotal evidence shows that a therapy that was successfully used during the Spanish Flu pandemic more than 100 years ago works on COVID-19 patients as well.
- Plasma containing antibodies from patients who have survived a novel coronavirus infection can be used to treat other COVID-19 patients wth active infections.
- However, the results are still preliminary and more research is required to determine how to best take advantage of this type of therapy.
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There’s no miracle cure for the novel coronavirus and we’ll have to wait a while for one to arrive. We’re looking at two possible types of treatments that could arrive in the somewhat near future, as well as a third one that’s available right now. The first one consists of medicine that’s meant to treat other ailments, but which can be used to hasten COVID-19 recovery. Drugs like hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir fit that bill, as well as plenty of others that are in clinical trials to determine their efficacy and safety. The conclusions of these trials will be here soon. Then we have vaccines that will prevent COVID-19 infections, assuming a few of the more than 70 candidates are successful. Again, they have to be effective and safe, and they won’t be widely available for at least 12 to 18 months.
The third treatment is a 100-year old therapy that can work for a wide range of infectious diseases: plasma transfusions from cured patients. This therapy is here now, it works, and it may already be saving lives.
Plasma may be the safest way to treat coronavirus patients right now, but there’s no guarantee it’ll always work. Then there’s a huge downside to it: you need donors to save other people, and those donors need to be perfect blood matches. This could delay treatment for some patients, and those experiencing severe conditions might not have time to wait.
But plasma has shown great promise and compared to other drugs that are in testing right now, there are no risky side-effects. Earlier this week, we told you of two severe COVID-19 cases that saw tremendous improvement after receiving antibodies-rich plasma from people who have beaten the disease. Those antibodies were able to improve the immune system’s response and help clear the virus out of those patients. Now, it looks like the same thing may have happened with a pediatric patient in Pennsylvania, per NBC10. Unlike the other reported cases, there aren’t many known details about this young patient.
We have no idea how old he or she was or how serious the COVID-19 case was. Also, doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) said the treatment was still experimental, and they can’t say conclusively that the plasma transfusion is the main reason why the child recovered.
“It was kind of remarkable when we had a patient who we wanted to treat that everybody mobilized and did the whole process very quickly,” Dr. David Teachey told NBC10. “It took us from start to finish from when we said we wanted to use it to it actually being in the patient around 40 hours,” the doctor added. Finding the right donor might take some time, but this case helps prove that plasma therapy is a feasible treatment that deserves more investment.
“This is an experimental therapy, and you really need to treat a lot of people with it in a well-designed manner to know if it actually is a benefit,” Dr. Teachey said. “We’re cautiously optimistic it’s going to help people.”
Anyone who recovered from COVID-19 can try to help by registering to donate plasma at local hospitals that might be running similar programs.