Coronavirus vaccine: Could blood plasma be the key to treating COVID-19 before a vaccine?
Coronavirus treatments have so far proven inconclusive, with several options pursued and limited success. Vaccines rank amongst the most potentially effective solutions, but experts believe it will be some time before one is fully developed.
Doctors have pinned some of their hopes on a potential treatment in convalescent plasma.
Plasma is a yellowish liquid component of blood which provides roughly 55 percent of blood, with the other 45 percent being red blood cells.
Amongst an array of vital roles, the substance helps people to maintain their blood volume and supplies proteins which spearhead clotting.
COVID-19 patients produce antibodies which help fight the disease, which can be extracted from the plasma and potentially used to treat people already suffering from it.
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According to Doctor Jonas Nilsen, co-founder of travel clinic Practio, the treatment has previously seen success in SARS and MERS patients.
Both diseases belong to the coronavirus family, suggesting convalescent plasma could also treat COVID-19.
Dr Nilsen said the process is safe, and since it has continued for some time any side effects are well understood.
He said: Since this kind of treatment is over 100 years old and has been used in the treatment of diphtheria, Spanish flu, measles etc. we are to some degree familiar with potential side effects.
“As with normal transfusions, blood has to be screened for HIV, Hepatitis, and Syphilis.
“We now have data from the first 5000 patients to receive Convalescent Plasma in the US, and the treatment was found to be safe and well-tolerated in severely ill patients.”
Dr Nilsen added while the treatment is still promising, conclusive evidence is yet to emerge on its effectiveness.
He added some early efforts have shown encouraging signs, however.
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He said: “Data is still limited, and we still need to see data from a big so-called randomised trial to determine its efficacy before routinely administering convalescent plasma to patients with COVID-19.
“Early reports from China have shown an effect, but with a limited number of patients enrolled.
“However, we do see promising signs that treatment with Convalescent Plasma is effective, especially if given relatively early in the treatment of COVID-19.”
Efforts to study the effects of convalescent plasma have taken off worldwide, and the NHS is contributing.
Currently, the health service is taking in donations across the board, including regular samples, plasma, and convalescent plasma from ex-COVID-19 patients.
Officials are conducting a clinical trial to see what the benefits of convalescent plasma may be for those suffering the disease.
People who have had a positive test result for COVID-19 or symptoms can register to donate online.
Those who meet select conditions will then receive an invite to give plasma.
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