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Can COVID-19 be treated by plasma transfusion and how is it obtained

It will take months to develop the COVID-19 vaccine. But theoretically, patients can be treated with a blood transfusion of people who have already recovered, writes Currently,.

Photo: Shutterstock

In response to bacterial or viral pathogens, b-lymphocytes of a sick person produce antibodies. Among such manufacturers are memory b-lymphocytes. When the body again encounters an old disease, they quickly produce a large number of antibodies. Those who fight the disease on their own or to help attract other components of the immune system.

Transfusion of blood plasma with antibodies from a recovered person can create an acquired passive immunity in a patient, helping him thereby fight the infection.

But the head of the Institute of Hematology, Immunology and Cellular Technologies in Moscow, Dr. Andrei Maschan wonders: can antibodies in sufficient quantities get into the pulmonary and bronchial tissue of a seriously ill patient?

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“It is more or less obvious to me that the best results from the use of plasma will be obtained only if it is used in the so-called proactive mode, that is, when those signs of infection appear that threaten serious pulmonary complications, in particular the need for a ventilator, - says Maschan. “But if you inject plasma containing antiviral antibodies to patients who have already been ventilated and have catastrophic damage to lung tissue, the likelihood of a therapeutic effect is much lower.”

The fact that transfusion of plasma can be effective, mankind has known for a long time. This is how patients were treated during the Spanish flu pandemic, and even earlier, patients with diphtheria and bacterial diseases.

With the development of vaccinations and antibiotics, plasma transfusion has faded into the background, but recently it has been used again in the fight against new diseases.

“The transfusion has been effective during previous epidemics. The positive results were achieved during the swine flu, the H1N1 epidemic in 2008-2009, ”explains Dr. David Rijk of the Mount Sinai Medical Complex in New York.

Researchers emphasize: we still have a lot to learn about coronavirus and how to deal with it effectively. Clinical trials of plasma transfusion are being conducted at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. There, 35 patients with COVID-19 received plasma donors.

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“We are monitoring their progress and other metrics incredibly closely,” says Dr. Anya Weinberg of Mount Sinai. - I hope that in two weeks we will be able to tell you and the whole world what we have managed to find so far. For example, can they be re-infected? How stable will their immunity be? We will study all this. For healthcare professionals and potentially citizens around the world, when they return to their daily lives, this information can have tremendous implications. ”

Even if it turns out that a plasma transfusion is safe and helps patients with COVID-19, large-scale use of such treatment is problematic.

“Plasma transfusion from those who have had coronavirus is very promising. Of course, this is a tempting prospect and treatment. But, first, you need to have enough of it. Secondly, plasma should be used early, when there is no irreversible lung injury yet, ”explains Dr. Maschan.

Scientists will continue to study the method of transfusion of donor plasma with antibodies against coronavirus infection and at the same time continue to develop a vaccine.

What is plasmapheresis, and how does it differ from donating whole blood

Plasmapheresis is the selective removal of plasma from the body. Plasma is the liquid part of the blood. It contains a wide variety of substances: proteins (including coagulation factors), fats, carbohydrates, hormones, vitamins, salts, are necessary for building body tissues and maintaining their vital functions, as well as organic substances that regulate metabolism. Plasma is widely used for therapeutic purposes in surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, oncology and other areas of medical practice.

  • Plasma can be donated up to 6-12 times a year at intervals of at least 2 weeks
  • Plasma is restored within a few days
  • The plasma removal process takes about 40 minutes.
  • The plasmapheresis procedure is performed by two methods: discrete and hardware
  • The maximum volume of one plasma supply does not exceed 600 ml

Video screenshot: Donor plasmapheresis is a method of obtaining plasma from a donor with the return of its own formed blood elements. Canadian Blood Services / YouTube

More information about the procedure and who can become a donor of blood and its components can be found on the website of the humanitarian organization "Red Cross" in the USA.

As ForumDaily wrote earlier:

Miscellaneous Science health research immunity blood donor Educational program pandemic coronavirus blood supply plasmapheresis

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