Blood plasma with high levels of COVID-19 antibodies reduced the number of patient deaths by 25%

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Convalescent plasma infusions can help reduce the number of coronavirus deaths, a new study suggests. 

Researchers looked at people ill with COVID-19 who received blood plasma from recovered coronavirus patients.

When given early enough, patients who received antibody-rich plasma had a one-quarter lower risk of death than those given plasma with low concentrations of COVID-19 antibodies.

The team, from the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, says the treatment could be a stopgap until enough people receive coronavirus vaccines for herd immunity to be achieved.

Convalescent plasma therapy is when the liquid portion of blood is taken from a recovered coronavirus patient and transferred into a sick patient in hopes they will develop the antibodies needed to fight off the infection. Pictured: Phlebotomist Morgan Wasik takes plasma from Rep Cindy Roe for a convalescent plasma donation at the Oklahoma Blood institute in Oklahoma City, August 2020

Convalescent plasma therapy is when the liquid portion of blood is taken from a recovered coronavirus patient and transferred into a sick patient in hopes they will develop the antibodies needed to fight off the infection. Pictured: Phlebotomist Morgan Wasik takes plasma from Rep Cindy Roe for a convalescent plasma donation at the Oklahoma Blood institute in Oklahoma City, August 2020

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester looked at 3,082 hospitalized COVID-19 patients who received blood plasma transfusions. Pictured: A doctor holds a donation of convalescent plasma from a recovered COVID-19 patient at the Arnulfo Arias Madrid Hospital, in Panama City, May 2020

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester looked at 3,082 hospitalized COVID-19 patients who received blood plasma transfusions. Pictured: A doctor holds a donation of convalescent plasma from a recovered COVID-19 patient at the Arnulfo Arias Madrid Hospital, in Panama City, May 2020

Just 22.3% of patients who received antibody-rich plasma died compared to 29.6% of those given plasma with low level of antibodies (above)

Just 22.3% of patients who received antibody-rich plasma died compared to 29.6% of those given plasma with low level of antibodies (above)

‘The discovery validates one of COVID-19’s only known treatments, which will be relied on until an increase in vaccinations snuffs out the global pandemic,’ Dr R Scott Wright, a coordinator of Mayo Clinic’s national COVID-19 plasma therapy program, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

‘I think it behooves the medical community to continue to innovate and test therapies for treatment. Realistically, we’re months away from having a substantial number of people vaccinated.’  

Convalescent plasma therapy is an experimental treatment in which plasma from a recovered COVID-19 patient is used on an infected patient in critical condition.

The hope is that the antibodies and immunity in the blood of a healthy person will be transferred to a sick person.

WHAT IS CONVALESCENT PLASMA THERAPY? 

Convalescent plasma therapy is an experimental treatment in which the liquid portion of blood is taken from recovered COVID-19 patients.

This portion of the blood contains antibodies that have been developed against the virus.

It is transferred into a sick patient in hopes they will develop more antibodies to fight off the infection. 

Donors have to confirm they had the virus and are fully recovered.

The FDA has also mandated that patients who receive plasma must be experiencing conditions such as life-threatening respiratory failure or multiple organ failure. 

At least 600 patients have received the treatment as part of a national study. 

The American Red Cross says it has produced 200 units of plasma from about 150 donors so far.

From this, the infected person will then develop the antibodies needed to fight off the coronavirus.

The treatment was first used during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, a situation not far removed from the coronavirus pandemic.

People can donate plasma more than once, but have to wait several weeks after donating.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of convalescent plasma for treatment in April. 

However, the FDA added it must be given on case-by-case basis, and patients who receive it must be experiencing conditions such as respiratory failure or multiple organ failure.

People can donate plasma more than once, but have to wait several weeks after donating.

For the study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the team looked at data from a U.S. national registry.

Patients were included who were enrolled in Mayo’s plasma therapy program through July 4 and for whom mortality data was available.

The 3,082 patients included were split into groups: those who received plasma with high levels of coronavirus antibodies, plasma with medium levels and those with low levels.

Those who received high levels had the lowest risk of death with just 22.3 percent passing away after 30 days.

By comparison, 27.4 percent of those in the medium group died as did 29.6 percent in the low group. 

This means patients with antibody-rich plasma had a 25 percent lower risk of death than the patients in the low level group. 

In addition, outcomes were better for those who were given treatment within three days and were not on mechanical ventilation. 

A total of 22.2 percent of patients who received a transfusion within three days of diagnosis died in comparison with those who received a transfusion four days or more after diagnosis. 

For those on mechanical ventilation, it did not matter how high the concentration of antibodies was in the plasma. Their risk of death was still higher than those no on ventilation.

‘Patients who were on ventilator did not see a benefit,’ Wright told the Star Tribune. ‘It was too late.’ 

In a linked editorial, Dr Louis Katz, the chief medical officer, of the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center in Davenport, Iowa, said the findings show the importance of conserving plasma for patients who would benefit from the treatment the most.

He acknowledged this meant withholding the treatment from some of the sickest patients.

‘Uncontrolled compassionate use of convalescent plasma in patients…should be discouraged, even though clinicians recognize how difficult it can be to ‘just stand there’ at the bedside of a patient in the ICU,’ he wrote.

‘Constraints on therapies for Covid-19 that are effective for limited patient populations are a powerful argument for continued consistent adherence to recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions and the rapid deployment and uptake of effective vaccines.’

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