With medical professionals desperate for effective treatment for COVID-19 patients, convalescent plasma gives some hope for reduced mortality rates. One organization has stepped up and provided 4,000 units of plasma for the relief effort.
HOUSTON, TX, February 01, 2021 /Neptune100/ — It has been just over a year since the COVID-19 virus arrived in the United States, already claiming the lives of over 400,000 Americans. Medical professionals are desperately seeking effective treatments as hospitals are continuously overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
One recently introduced, promising COVID-19 treatment is produced from the antibodies in the plasma of recently recovered virus patients. The antibodies are proteins that help the body fight the virus, and they are produced by the immune system of someone recently infected. Antibodies can stay in the bloodstream up to several months after recovery, and can be injected into a patient who is currently infected with COVID-19 to help them recover faster and reduce the risk of hospitalization or death.
Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company specializing in the development of new treatments for chronic diseases, developed a two-antibody combination that has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalizations in 70% of newly diagnosed, non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients who are at high risk of serious illness because of age and health factors. Because of this, the FDA has allowed the use of the new treatment under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for mild or moderate COVID-19 cases not requiring hospital stays while more data is being collected and published.
A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine reports a lower risk of death for COVID-19 patients who receive the antibody plasma treatment within days of being admitted to the hospital. Dr. Nigel Paneth from Michigan State University said in an interview with NBC News that the convalescent plasma has shown to reduce the risk of patients dying from a COVID-19 infection by one-third.
While there is evidence that convalescent plasma can significantly improve high-risk patient outcomes for those infected with COVID-19, another issue remains. The demand for convalescent plasma is increasing daily, but there is little supply. Those who have recovered from COVID-19 and are eligible to donate are urged to do so by donation centers and healthcare workers.
However, some individuals and organizations have taken it into their own hands to provide the convalescent plasma for treatment to those who are currently infected with COVID-19. One organization in South Korea called Shincheonji Church of Jesus hosted three record-breaking plasma donation drives from members who had recovered from the virus. In July and September of 2020, about 1,700 Shincheonji members donated convalescent plasma. In the last donation drive spanning November and December 2020, approximately 4,000 members donated convalescent plasma for vaccination and treatment research. One 78-year-old Korean citizen who received antibodies from these donation drives fully recovered after convalescent plasma was a last effort to treat him when remdesivir and dexamethasone did not work. Details of the plasma donation can be found here.
Hopefully these donation drives will inspire other recovered patients to do the same and help improve the outcome for those who are infected with COVID-19.