Expectations are growing for a treatment in which seriously ill coronavirus patients receive plasma from people who have recovered from the infection. A Chinese research team published results on the efficacy of plasma therapy in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America on April 6, and other countries, including Japan, have begun to study its use.
Plasma is a liquid component of blood that does not include red blood cells, white blood cells and other cellular components. It accounts for 55% of blood and contains water, proteins such as antibodies, lipids and sugars. According to the paper, the Chinese research team took plasma from people who had recovered from a coronavirus infection and administered 200 milliliters of it to 10 seriously ill patients. The recovered patients’ plasma contained antibodies that attacked the new coronavirus, increasing or maintaining antibodies in the sick patients’ blood.
The 10 patients’ symptoms, including fever and cough, improved within three days. In seven of them, the virus was no longer detected in their blood. The team explains that it could be a promising option to save the lives of critically ill patients.
In the United States, major general hospitals are planning to conduct large-scale studies to treat critically ill patients. The hospitals, through the American Red Cross and other organizations, are urging people who recovered more than two weeks prior to donate blood. Canada has also embarked on a study involving a number of institutions. In Japan, a team from the National Center for Global Health and Medicine has begun procedures for clinical research, in which about 400 milliliters of plasma from people who have recovered will be given to patients. The date of implementation has yet to be decided. Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., in cooperation with U.S. and European companies, is aiming to develop a plasma fractionation technique using components from the plasma of people who are fully recovered. Kitasato University Prof. Hidero Kitasato said: “The safety of plasma treatment must be carefully monitored because it contains substances other than antibodies, but it is expected to be highly effective. It could become a crucial last resort in the absence of an effective treatment.”