Researchers from Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine have used blood from recovered coronavirus victims to help 10 patients who were severely ill with coronavirus.
One particular patient, a 42-year-old man, was able to come off ventilation after only two days of receiving the blood plasma treatment, a result that was called “remarkable” by the scientists.
The treatment, known as convalescent plasma therapy, was used during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 before any vaccines or antivirals were available. It involves transfusing the blood, which contains powerful antibodies that are specifically designed to fight the virus, into infected patients.
During the trials, all the patients received a transfusion of a 200ml dose of blood plasma from recovered coronavirus victims, and all experienced diminished symptoms, which included fevers and coughs, within three days.
The scientists involved in these trials have called for more extensive clinical trials to be carried out on this promising treatment option.
Sir Munir Pirmohamed, the president of the British Pharmacological Society, said: “This is not a randomised trial and all patients also received other treatments, including antivirals such as remdesivir, which are currently in trials for COVID-19.”
He also added that it was necessary to look into the possible safety issues with this type of treatment, namely the diseases that could occur during the transfusion process.
He said: “Even if shown to work, scalability to treat large numbers may become an issue.”
Elsewhere, in a hospital in Wuhan, Chinese doctors have been treating severe coronavirus patients with the HIV drug Kaletra.
Zhang Dingyu, the president of the Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, has revealed that they have been prescribing Kaletra, an off-patent version of lopinavir/ritonavir produced by AbbVie since January, as well as a second drug, bismuth potassium citrate.
He said: “We believe taking this drug is beneficial.”
However, a study published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine, based on a test in Chinese patients with severe COVID-19 at Jinyintan, showed that Kaletra was not effective as a possible treatment.
In response, Zhang said: “You have to look at the supplementary material.” He went on to confirm that three medical workers had started taking Kaletra 2-3 days after symptoms of the virus had appeared and said: “Towards the end of taking the drug, the changes their lungs experienced were great.”
Kaletra has also been known to have positive effects in the treatment of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has expressed his dedication to developing treatment for coronavirus in the UK, having already launched a randomised clinical trial of potential coronavirus treatments in the UK.
He said: “The coronavirus outbreak is the biggest public health emergency in a generation, and we are doing everything we can to fight it on all fronts through our evidence-based action plan. The UK is leading the way on research in the race to find treatments, and we have now launched the largest trial in the world, pooling resources with our world-leading life science sector.”
Currently, there is no vaccine and no treatment for COIVD-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.
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