The global pandemic brought upon by the virus that causes COVID-19 has recorded over three million people infected, with over two hundred thousand fatalities. As medical professionals and experts are doing their best to find a cure, various alternatives are being tested. One of these alternatives is plasma treatment.

With no available vaccine for COVID-19, different countries have turned to possible regimens such as plasma treatment. This procedure uses antibodies found in the blood of people who recovered from the coronavirus to aid patients battling the disease. It’s also an investigational treatment that has been around since the 1890s.

Since COVID-19 infections move fast and recent research about it is having trouble keeping up, doctors have resulted in falling back to a century-old treatment. It’s visible that citizens of heavily affected countries are adamant in finding a cure or any kind of breakthrough and this option may be a solid temporary solution. Here’s everything you need to know about plasma treatment for COVID-19.

How does plasma therapy work?

The immune system of those patients who contracted and successfully recovered from COVID-19 developed antibodies. These virus-fighting agents can be found in the liquid part of the human blood called plasma. 

Survivors of the virus can donate their blood to extract antibody-rich plasma which would then be transfused to patients who are currently infected to boost their immune system and possibly their recovery. In the case of the coronavirus, scientists say that the antibodies from the plasma of a recovered patient attack the spikes on the outside of the virus to prevent it from penetrating human cells.

Who would it help?

Researchers are hoping that plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients will be effective in treating people with the most severe symptoms of the virus. It is also a hope that it can keep those who are not as sick after showing positive results following the COVID-19 testing conducted on them from getting worse.

The plasma coming from those coronavirus patients that have healed fully is convalescent, meaning that the antibodies that their plasma contains will only last in the recipient’s body for a short period of time.

When was it widely used?

Plasma was famously used to beat the Spanish flu pandemic back in 1918. It was also used during the spread of SARS, which is fairly similar to the coronavirus, back in 2003, and for the Ebola pandemic which started in 2013. It’s also used against measles, bacterial pneumonia, and plenty of other infections before modern medicine came along.

How many patients can plasma from a donor treat?

One’s donated plasma can produce two doses of the materials needed for transfusions. Scientists say that a person only requires one transfusion to get enough antibodies to fight the virus.

Who is qualified to donate blood for plasma treatment?

Different trials may have different requirements, but the basic one is that they must be a confirmed, fully-recovered COVID-19 patient. They should at least be 17 years old and at least 110 lbs. Some hospitals and blood banks also require that the donor must be symptom-free for at least 14 days prior to donating.

How often can a person donate blood for plasma treatment?

People who donate plasma can do so every two weeks as opposed to the normal blood donation wherein a person needs to wait for two to three months before donating again.

Does plasma treatment work?

According to experts, it is currently not known if convalescent plasma will be an effective treatment for COVID-19. Different countries from around the world are conducting their own clinical trials and investigation to determine how effective plasma from the blood of a virus survivor is as a cure.

Summary

Doctors are going back to the old ways by using plasma as a possible treatment for COVID-19. While its effectiveness is still a bit doubtful, it is expected that researchers will continue to study it while the entire world waits for a form of cure to beat this pandemic.

About the author

Angelo Castelda

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