During this pandemic, we've come to see that our health is directly impacted by those around us. A new study reveals that it's the same story in regards to healing those already infected.
Preliminary data from an ongoing study shows that treating infected individuals with convalescent plasma (plasma obtained from cured patients) is both safe and effective at combating the virus. The study was conducted at Houston Methodist, US, and involves over 300 patients.
"Our studies to date show the treatment is safe and in a promising number of patients, effective," said corresponding author Dr. James Musser, chair of the Department of Pathology and Genomic Medicine at Houston Methodist.
"While convalescent plasma therapy remains experimental and we have more research to do and data to collect, we now have more evidence than ever that this century-old plasma therapy has merit, is safe and can help reduce the death rate from this virus."
Houston Methodist was the first academic medical center in the US to trial convalescent plasma transfusions in March. The current study tracked the state of severely ill COVID-19 patients admitted to the eight Houston Methodist hospitals between 28 March and 6 July.
Patients were tracked for 28 days after receiving a transfusion and their evolution compared to that of a group of control patients (who received treatment but no plasma transfusions).
Those who received plasma from healed patients had the highest concentrations of antibodies that could attack SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the pandemic, out of all the patients in this study. They were also more likely to survive the infection than similar patients who had received no transfusions. The transfusions were most effective when administered within 72 hours of hospitalization.
This isn't the only study to look into the benefits of plasma transfusions against COVID-19. It is an old medical procedure that has been used time and time again against infectious diseases (blood plasma carries natural antibodies); although it doesn't work for every one, it's still useful.
So far, plasma transfusions seem to be effective against the pandemic, but we're yet to prove it beyond a doubt -- these are just preliminary findings, after all.
But if we do find out that they're effective beyond a doubt, those who have recovered from the disease will be in high demand at blood donation centers.
The study "Treatment of COVID-19 Patients with Convalescent Plasma Reveals a Signal of Significantly Decreased Mortality" has been published in the American Journal of Pathology.