And blood plasma treatment means transferring antibodies from people who have recovered from coronavirus infection and transferring them to people with the disease, with the aim of providing them with “negative immunity” or the so-called passive immunity.
According to early results, the treatment did not increase the risk of death from the disease, but rather may have contributed to “saving lives.”
To date, nearly 11,000 Americans have received experimental transfers of between 200-400 milliliters of blood plasma, under the supervision of the Food and Drug Administration.
The new findings are based on the first five thousand of these patients, all of whom had a life-threatening infection from Covid-19, or were at risk of it.
Less than one percent
Four hours after the blood transfusion, less than 1% suffered a serious adverse event, including low oxygenation, fluid build-up in the lungs, or a severe allergic reaction.
Any of these results may be attributed to known complications of plasma transfer. But it is also possible to blame the natural development of coronavirus infection, especially in those with late-stage disease.
In general, 15 out of five thousand died within four hours of a blood transfusion. Three deaths were linked to blood transfusion, while the fourth was “likely” linked. An additional 21 severe adverse events not reported to have died.
“A reason for optimism”
According to the doctors, the analysis did not intend to clarify the effectiveness of the treatment, but early indications of the experiment gave the researchers a reason for “optimism.”
Seven days after the blood plasma was transmitted to those severely affected by Covid-19, 85 percent of them managed to survive.
This early reading, published this week on MedRxiv, will likely pave the way for larger clinical trials to test two possible uses of blood plasma: the first as treatment for infected people, and the second as a way to protect key workers who are routinely exposed to the virus.
In the absence of an effective treatment for Covid-19, interest in blood plasma increases sharply, especially with the increase in people recovering from the disease.
According to the numbers of Johns Hopkins, who tracks the epidemic statistics, more than one million and 850 thousand people worldwide have recovered from the disease.
Treat and prevent immediately
And if additional research proves that the blood plasma is safe and effective, then treatment and prevention with this approach may become common immediately, especially after the blood centers begin collecting units from those recovering from the disease.
Blood plasma therapy is still experimental in the case of the Covid-19 epidemic, but it has proven effective in combating infectious diseases for more than a century. The blood plasma saved many patients who were suffering from diphtheria, smallpox and polio, as well as modern epidemics such as Ebola.
But it is not yet clear whether donor plasma can be safely injected in patients with infections and disorders that attack body organs, such as the lungs, heart and kidneys.