As the search for a treatment for coronavirus continues, a perhaps obscure-sounding candidate has begun to make headlines: blood containing antibodies from patients who have already recovered from the virus. But could this really work?
So far, early results from China are promising. Although yet to be peer-reviewed, a preliminary paper by researchers in Beijing, Wuhan and Shanghai found that 10 severely ill patients given blood plasma from patients already recovered from COVD-19 saw their symptoms significantly improve within three days. More than this, in seven of the patients, after just six days, their viral loads dropped to undetectable levels.
Another paper found that five critically ill people who underwent the same therapy in Shenzhen saw their symptoms dramatically improve within just a few days, while their viral loads dropped within two weeks. While four of the patients no longer needed mechanical ventilation nine days following the transfusions, three have since been discharged, while the remaining two were in a stable condition as of 37 days following the transfusion.
Although preliminary results from relatively small sample sizes, should these results be replicated over larger study samples, the treatment may be able to significantly curb the virus’s mortality rate. As such, some medical centres such as Mount Sinai and other New York hospitals have already begun to trial the treatment, while researchers are currently trying to get approval for formal and rigorous clinical trials to better collect data about the therapy.
Michael Joyner, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist said, “Historical evidence suggests if you can give it to people relatively early in the course of the hospitalization, before they’re in the ICU, that might be the sweet spot for administration.”
Whether this treatment is really a panacea however will take time to tell. After all, questions still remain on the immunity of anyone who recovers; specifically, whether they may catch the virus again. Furthermore, although it is presumed that antibodies should be effective for many months, if not years, against reinfection based on research conducted on related viruses, the possibility remains that this may not be the case until further evidence emerges.