Scientist Want Your Blood, to be Exact Your Plasma
Covid-19 has become the most talked about virus in modern history. Every time we turn on any media outlet, all we hear is that the number of those affected is rising, and the death toll is increasing. Even the hundreds of thousands of us who have opted to practice social distancing have become fed up with our new lives in quarantine and are hoping, and praying, for a cure to this menace. And though scientists still haven’t been able to find a cure, some of them believe the key to unlocking Covid-19 may be found in survivors’ blood – or to be exact, their plasma.
Scientists in many countries including Turkey and China have gone back to an old treatment that was used to fight epidemics like the SARS outbreak in 2002, and the Ebola crisis in 2014 by using a method that transfuses convalescent serum or donated plasma from a cured host to cure a sick person.
How does that work? Well, when any individual gets infected, their body starts to make proteins called antibodies to fight the infection, and after that person recovers, those antibodies will still be floating in their blood’s plasma for months or even years. The idea is to take the healthy antibodies from a cured patient and infuse it into a freshly diagnosed person and hope that their body can fight off the virus. And even though there hasn’t been extensive research done as to how much of an impact this technique had in limiting the epidemics of the past, no one can deny that the plasma treatment has helped many people.
Covid-19 survivors are now voluntarily donating their plasma to blood banks in order to help doctors around the world, but researchers are worried about the amount of time it will take to build up a stock.
A 56-year-old patient in Turkey’s eastern province of Malatya tested negative for coronavirus after receiving plasma therapy, his doctor said. The patient was being treated under intensive care after he contracted Covid-19, said Dr. Ahmet Kizilay, and was given plasma treatment, and he showed a partial recovery after only 72 hours, and finally resulting in him being cured of the virus. When he was tested again last week, on April 13th, he was still negative. “He is still in the ICU and under control”, said Dr. Ahmet, “he was one of the most critical patients we had”.
The doctor, and many like him, are calling on all patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to make blood donations as the plasma at hand is only enough to treat a few more patients. “We need much more,” he added.
A more modern approach is to brew this type of antibody in the lab, something Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and other companies like it are working on. Using blood from Covid-19 survivors is a decidedly more labour-intensive approach, but researchers could start banking the plasma as soon as regulators like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finish studying this method. However, the United Kingdom’s special health authority, NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), is taking a more proactive approach by asking people who recovered from Covid-19 to donate blood so they can potentially assess the therapy in actual trials. They said that, “all clinical trials have to follow a rigorous approval process to protect patients and to ensure robust results are generated. We are working closely with the government and all relevant bodies to move through the approval process as quickly as possible.”
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