Health ministry seeks convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19 patients

Thursday, 2020-08-06 15:38:33
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A health worker conducts PCR testing to confirm COVID-19 at Hue Central Hospital. (Photo: NDO/Cong Hau)
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NDO – The Ministry of Health (MoH) is seeking donations of convalescent plasma from those who have fully recovered from COVID-19 to lend a hand in treating severely ill patients with the coronavirus.

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The ministry has approved a clinical trial on “Assessing the safety and initial efficacy of treating medium and severely ill COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma from COVID-19 recoveries".

The research is co-chaired by Dr. Pham Ngoc Thach, Director of the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases and Prof., Dr. Nguyen Thanh Liem, Director of the Vinmec Research Institute of Stem Cell and Gene Technology, with participation of various leading scientists and medical experts.

According to Dr. Van Dinh Trang, Head of the Department of Microbiology - Molecular Biology under the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases, the main coordinator of the study, those eligible for plasma donation are from 18 to 65 years old, weighing more than 50 kg for men and 45 kg for women. They are COVID-19 recoveries and are in their post hospital discharge stage of at least 14 days.

These subjects will be offered free screening for diseases like hepatitis B, HIV, syphilis and other necessary tests to ensure clean plasma donations.

Plasma recipients are 18-to-75-year-old COVID-19 patients who have been diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 infection by RT-PCR tests from oropharyngeal specimens, meeting all the selection criteria and who were absent for any exclusion criteria under the research protocol.

The clinical trial will be conducted at the Hanoi-based National Hospital for Tropical Diseases, the Da Nang Hospital and some other hospitals assigned by the MoH.

Dr. Trang announced that his hospital started selecting plasma donors from August 3. After two days, five had registered to donate their convalescent plasma, including a doctor from the hospital who recovered from COVID-19. The donors will be tested and screened carefully and will be allowed to donate their plasma if they meet all the criteria.

According to medical experts, the transfusion of plasma - fluid can increase the anti-virus response in humans, making the immune system stronger. Currently, the use of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 treatment has also been carried out in some countries.

Plasma from COVID-19 recoveries contains a large amount of antibodies that are capable of neutralising the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The trial has been tested in several countries and initially showed possible efficacy for severely ill COVID-19 patients.

"This is the use of antibodies against an agent to prevent or treat an infectious disease caused by that agent. The patient receives passive antibodies from the convalescent plasma of the recoveries. This is the only treatment to immediately supply antibodies to patients to destroy the virus and prevent the disease from getting worse," Dr. Trang said.

Experts have said that this new method may be the lifeline for COVID-19 patients amidst the world still being without a vaccine or a specific cure to the deadly disease.

The plasma donation is similar to donating blood. Doctors do not use the whole blood components, but only 600 ml of plasma, as the plasma is filtered immediately during the donation process. The amount of plasma removed will be replaced by a physiological serum solution to ensure the health of the donor.

Patients who have fully recovered from COVID-19 can actively contact the 19003228 hotline of the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases for advice.

The donation is completely voluntary. The donor has the right to stop participating in the donation at any time.