Early in the pandemic, scientists speculated that “convalescent plasma” could be used to treat COVID-19.The idea was that by giving patients plasma from people who had recovered (or convalesced) from COVID-19, this antibody-rich infusion would help their immune systems fight infection. It’s a strategy that’s been tried, with varying degrees of success, for other infectious diseases like Ebola.However, new evidence, including a recent international study, indicates that convalescent plasma does not save the lives of people who are critically ill with COVID-19. The therapy was deemed “futile” by the researchers.
What exactly is convalescent plasma?A blood product containing antibodies against an infectious pathogen is known as convalescent plasma (such as SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19). It is derived from blood drawn from people who have recovered from an infectious disease.To separate the various blood components, scientists use a process known as apheresis. Red and white blood cells, as well as platelets, are eliminated, leaving plasma, which is high in antibodies. The origins of convalescent plasma therapy (or serum therapy) can be traced back to the 1890s. This is when veterinarian Emil von Behring infected horses with the diphtheria-causing bacteria.Behring collected the horses’ antibody-rich blood after they recovered in order to treat the disease in humans. As a result, he received the first Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1901.What is the rationale behind the use of convalescent plasma in the treatment of COVID?For over a century, convalescent plasma has been used to treat infectious diseases.
Scarlet fever, pneumonia, tetanus, diphtheria, mumps, and chickenpox are among them.Convalescent plasma has recently been studied as a potential treatment for SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), and Ebola.Researchers hoped that because it was so early in the pandemic, convalescent plasma could also be used to treat COVID-19.Initial research and clinical trials were promising. This resulted in the widespread use of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients in the United States, a decision that was supported by the Food and Drug Administration.By May of this year, more than 100 clinical trials with convalescent plasma in people with COVID-19 had been conducted; roughly one-third of these studies had completed or were terminated early.The results of the landmark RECOVERY trial in the United Kingdom were released earlier this year. This study compared convalescent plasma therapy to standard supportive care in over 10,000 people hospitalised with COVID-19.
Treatment had no effect on the risk of death (24 percent in both groups), and there was no difference in the number of patients who recovered (66 percent discharged from hospital in both groups) or who deteriorated (29 percent needed mechanical ventilation to support breathing in both groups). As a result, the researchers concluded that convalescent plasma provided no benefit to people admitted to the hospital with COVID-19.
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