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Interim status: previous experience with COVID-19 therapy attempts with plasma
There is currently no therapy against COVID-19. Scientists are reviewing existing drugs for their effectiveness and researching vaccines. Another option is therapy with antibodies obtained from the blood plasma of recovered people. Experts are now reporting on previous experiences with these healing attempts.
The University Hospital Regensburg (UKR) started on April 7, 2020 the first attempts at healing COVID-19 sufferers with severe disease courses. For this, plasma donors were sought who survived their own COVID-19 disease and had formed protective antibodies. Now the clinic reports in a communication about the previous experiences with therapy attempts with convalescent plasma.
No effective causal therapy yet
The pandemic triggered by the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has so far not led to an uncontrolled overload of the health system in Germany due to timely strict hygiene and isolation measures.
In some patients, however, infection with SARS-CoV-2 triggers a serious life-threatening illness. This affects not only the lungs, but often also other organ systems such as the liver, kidneys and brain.
There are now increasing indications that the new virus can also affect the endothelium of blood vessels. Furthermore, despite intensive research, there is no recognized effective causal therapy.
Treatment of seriously ill patients
At the University Clinic Regensburg (UKR), the main treatment is for critically ill patients who are severely ill and who are usually relocated from other clinics in the region.
As it is known from Asia that people with a severe course of the disease have a particularly high mortality rate, the UKR dealt with the possibilities and the production of convalescent plasma at an early stage.
This was preceded by isolated experiences from China and South Korea, according to which the administration of blood plasma to recovered COVID-19 patients may have a positive effect in seriously ill patients.
Blood plasma from recovered people is also used to treat COVID-19 at other German clinics, such as the University Hospital Erlangen.
No radical improvement in the course of the disease yet
Up to now, convalescent plasma has been used in 26 patients at the UKR. According to the information, all treatments were carried out exclusively as a so-called "individual healing attempt" for the seriously ill with highly complex clinical pictures.
So far, the first interim result has unfortunately not shown any drastic improvement in the course of the disease. A decrease in virus activity can be seen in individual patients, although this could also have occurred as a result of natural healing processes.
In order to be able to make reliable statements about the effectiveness of the convalescent plasma, further treatments and longer observation periods are required.
No relevant side effects have been observed to date
According to the UKR, it can generally be assumed that the use of convalescent plasma can be a causal therapeutic approach, since the virus is to be inactivated by specific antibodies.
Therefore there is definitely potential in this therapy, which must be followed up and examined. It is essential that, according to the experts, no relevant side effects were observed in the previous applications.
Due to the great willingness to help in the population and the associated high number of donors, a faster gift is now possible. It is conceivable that administration of the convalescent plasma in the earlier phase of the disease, in which no body-specific antibodies have yet been formed, can slow down the uninhibited spread of the virus.
This must now be investigated with the help of controlled studies in order to obtain reliable statements about the effectiveness. (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Universitätsklinikum Regensburg (UKR): Interim status: previous experience with therapy attempts with convalescent plasma, (access: April 27, 2020), Universitätsklinikum Regensburg (UKR)