Plan to use antibodies from victims to treat Covid-19

Researchers in the US have started investigating whether antibodies from the blood of recovered patients can be used to treat people who are seriously ill due to Covid-19.

The plan is to ask patients who recover from Covid-19 to donate their blood, from which plasma would be isolated.

After screening for toxins and viruses, the plasma would be transfused into people ill with or at high risk of Covid-19, according to a news release posted on the website of Washington University in St Louis on Monday. 

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"This is something that can be done very quickly, much faster than drug development, because it basically involves donating and transfusing plasma," said Jeffrey P Henderson, an associate professor of medicine and of molecular microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

"As soon as we have individuals who have recovered from Covid-19 walking around, we have potential donors, and we can use the blood bank system to obtain plasma and distribute it to the patients who need it."

The concept is simple, but the execution is more complicated.

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The scientists still need to determine how much antibody is in the blood of recovered patients, and how much antibody needs to be given to effectively treat or prevent Covid-19. 

The procedure for isolating plasma is a long-established technology that can be performed using equipment normally found in blood-banking facilities, and receiving plasma from these donors is as safe as any other plasma transfusion, Henderson said. 

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"Giving serum from newly recovered patients is a stone-age approach, but historically it has worked," said Henderson.

"This is how we used to prevent and treat viral infections like measles, mumps, polio and influenza, but once vaccines were developed, the technique understandably fell out of favour and many people forgot about it. Until we have specific drugs and vaccines for Covid-19, this approach could save lives." 

The investigational new drug application to the Food and Drug Administration was filed last week. If approved, the scientists plan to move rapidly to a clinical trial. 

In Kenya, the number of coronavirus victims has now hit 25.

The confirmed cases are aged between 20 and 67 and are isolated at various hospitals.

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Patients are in isolation and are being monitored, with Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe saying that officials are tracing 745 close contacts of the patients.

Some 98 people have been discharged after completing a two-week quarantine while 15 are still at the Infectious Diseases Unit waiting for results.

Mr Kagwe appreciated the donation of more than 20,000 testing kits from Chinese entrepreneur Jack Ma and the Alibaba Foundation, saying that in the coming days they would carry out more tests. 

Are you suspecting that you have coronavirus? Before you rush to the hospital, do this quick easy self-assessment test. #StayHome #WashYourHands HERE.

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