Johns Hopkins University says blood plasma from cured COVID-19 patients may treat new Coronavirus

After Chinese doctors, US doctors push for treatment of coronavirus with blood from Novel Coronavirus recovered patients

The Novel Coronavirus has shifted its epicentre from China to Europe as the number of infected people hit 17,660 in Italy with the second-highest death toll, 1,266. Even though there are claims made by researchers about the availability of vaccines, as of now there is no clinically proven remedy.

Meanwhile, the researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore said that the key to slowing down and treat COVID-19 could be hidden in the blood of those patients who have recovered from the disease. However, it should be mentioned that earlier a Chinese senior health official asked recovered patients to donate blood plasma on February 13 to treat the Novel Coronavirus infected people.

New treatment for COVID-19?

Blood plasma
Blood Plasma (Representational picture) Pixabay

The new approach to treat Coronavirus patients includes "convalescent serum" - which is acquired from a person who has recovered from an infectious disease and considered to be especially rich in antibodies against the infectious agent of the disease. Even though this method is century old, it has not been used widely in the US in decades.

It should be mentioned that in 1918 during the Spanish flu outbreak, doctors used blood products obtained from survivors which led to a 50 percent drop in deaths. A similar approach was adopted to slow down the spread of polio and measles outbreaks decades ago.

Dr Arturo Casadevall, chair of the molecular microbiology and immunology department at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health learned in December that a new Coronavirus was spreading rapidly in China and soon asked the colleagues to use the "convalescent serum."

Will this new approach work?

As per NBC News, he said, "I knew the history of what was done in the early 20th century with epidemics. They didn't have vaccines then, they didn't have any drugs then — just like the situation we face now. But physicians then knew that, for certain conditions, you could take the blood of the immune and use it to prevent disease or treat those who became ill."

In a study paper, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Casadevall and a colleague, Dr Liise-anne Pirofski said that collecting blood plasma for previously infected people might be the best hope for treating COVID-19 patients.

Arturo Casadevall
Arturo Casadevall Twitter/ @ACasadevall1

Chinese doctors used blood plasma in 2003 from recovered patients to treat 80 people suffering from SARS, which also belong to the Coronavirus family. Later, in 2014, WHO published guidelines for using donated plasma to treat people infected with Ebola as the treatment showed a promising outcome. In an interview with Stat News, a top Food and Drug Administration official said convalescent plasma may help the doctors to treat Coronavirus patients.

Plasma used in SARS, Ebola outbreaks

Even though there are several researchers who are currently trying to find a vaccine or drug for the Novel Coronavirus, health officials said that those treatment methods, as well as a COVID-19 vaccine, is months away. The co-director of the US Centre for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital, Dr Peter Hotez testified before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee a few weeks ago and said that they had the vaccine in 2016 but due to funding issues they had to drop the plan of a clinical trial.

While testifying Dr Hotez also mentioned that any vaccine for this new Coronavirus would take time but "Unfortunately some of my colleagues in the biotech industry are making this inflated claims about vaccines coming in weeks." However, knowing the fact that treatment is not a cure, Casadevall said that it might be an important stopgap which would provide some time for the vaccine or drug research.

This article was first published on March 14, 2020
Related topics : Coronavirus