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Plasma transfusion, a new treatment option for COVID-19

Plasma transfusion, a new treatment option for COVID-19

Last Reviewed : 12/17/2020
Plasma transfusion, a new treatment option for COVID-19

Several treatment options are under consideration for COVID-19. There has been extensive research to find the best treatment option for this global pandemic. Although certain drugs like hydroxychloroquine are proposed, they are not widely approved as there is no robust evidence to prove its efficacy. Vaccines are still going through clinical phase and it may take more than a year before any vaccine can come into the market.

One investigational treatment being explored is to use plasma (when all the blood cells are removed from the donated blood, the liquid portion is called as plasma) collected from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19. When individuals are infected with COVID-19, they mount an immune response against the virus by developing antibodies in the blood. By transfusing plasma from a recovered individual to an infected individual, antibodies from the recovered person can fight against the virus in the infected person. This results in early recovery from the disease.

In a study published in JAMA, Shen et al reported that transfusion of plasma from recovered individuals given to five critically ill patients helped all the five patients to improve. All the five patients were on a mechanical ventilator at the time of transfusion. In addition to plasma, they also received other standard treatment, including antiviral agents and steroid injections. Even though the study included only five patients, the results are very promising and elucidate the effectiveness of plasma treatment in COVID-19 affected individuals.

Using convalescent serum to treat an active infection is not something new. Even during the previous endemics including SARS, Ebola, MERS, convalescent serum was recommended by World Health Organization to treat acute infections. There are multiple studies demonstrating similar beneficial results during H1N1 outbreak. One article published in Lancet advocated testing safety and efficacy of convalescent plasma transfusion in COVID-19 patients.

On March 24, FDA released a statement that investigators can request to use plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19. FDA authorized plasma transfusion under an emergency investigational new drug protocol. Plasma transfusion may be given only to critically ill patients. While large studies may be needed to validate the effectiveness of plasma further, it remains an excellent treatment option for COVID-19 patients.

 

References:

  1. Shen C et al. Treatment of 5 Critically Ill Patients with COVID-19 With Convalescent Plasma, JAMA, epub ahead of print March 27, 2020, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2763983.
  2. Roback JD et al. Convalescent Plasma to Treat COVID-19: Possibilities and Challenges, JAMA, epub ahead of print March 27, 2020, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2763982.
  3. Chen L et al. Convalescent plasma as potential therapy for COVID-19, Lancet Infect Dis, epub ahead of print February 27, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30141-9.
  4. Duan K et al. The feasibility of convalescent plasma therapy insevere COVID-19 patients: a pilot study, MedRxiv, March 23, 2020, https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.16...

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