Doctors turn to plasma therapy to save victims from virus ‘abyss’

Doctors turn to plasma therapy to save victims from virus ‘abyss’
Doctors turn to plasma therapy to save victims from virus ‘abyss’

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - ROME: Doctors in northern Italy are hoping an experimental “super-plasma” therapy will deliver a breakthrough in the treatment of coronavirus patients.

Several patients in the San Matteo Hospital in Pavia, one of the northern Italian areas in the eye of the coronavirus storm, are believed to have benefited from the treatment, which involves a transfusion of blood plasma from people who have recovered from the virus and developed protective antibodies against the deadly infection.
The initial two donors were doctors from the town of Pieve Porto Morone. The husband and wife were among the first to contract and survive the virus in the province.
“We believe that this kind of hyperimmune plasma can cure people,” Dr. Cesare Perotti, director of the immunohematology and transfusion department at the San Matteo Hospital, told Arab news.
“A similar practice proved effective against Ebola and SARS in the past, so we believed we should give it a try here, especially on those patients in the most critical condition. At least it gives them a final hope,” he said.
Dr. Massimo Franchini, a hematologist and chief of the transfusion center at the Poma hospital in Mantua, said that the plasma treatment is a viable option “while we wait for the vaccine, which everyone says will take several months.”
“When the treatment works, a ‘regression’ is observed: It almost seems that we are able to hold the patient by the hand and pull him out of the abyss,” Franchini said.
After the practice was given formal approval by the Italian Superior Authority for Health, the first procedures were carried out in the past few days, with five treatments at San Matteo and four at the Mantua hospital. The outcome is believed to have been positive, although no official figures have been released. However, off the record, some doctors involved in the project say that the results “are more than positive.”
“We had been thinking of plasma therapy for a few weeks,” Perotti said. “Two weeks ago we shared our research with a visiting delegation of Chinese doctors from Wuhan, the city recognized as the initial hotspot for the pandemic.

BACKGROUND

Prospective donors undergo testing for immunity against the virus and can then provide much-needed blood plasma through a procedure that takes no more than 40 minutes.

“In China, it was conducted on some patients, too, with excellent results. So we decided to launch a hotline appeal to all the patients in our area who have recovered from coronavirus after being treated in hospital — they could become donors of the super-plasma we needed for our project,” he said.
Prospective donors undergo testing for immunity against the virus and can then provide much-needed blood plasma through a procedure that takes no more than 40 minutes.
“This therapy has also the great advantage of producing no side effects, and can be combined with other treatments already in progress,” Perotti said.
Pavia in Lombardy has been one of the regions hardest hit by the virus. More than 100 victims reported in the province were residents in aged care homes where the deadly infection spread rapidly.
The local newspaper publishes up to four pages of obituaries daily, mostly of the elderly but the younger generations are also paying a heavy toll because of the infection and most families in the area are mourning at least one dead relative.
Requesting anonymity, the two doctors who became the first donors in the plasma therapy trial told Arab News: “We managed to recover, we succeeded in escaping from this nightmare. As lucky survivors and as doctors, my wife and I thought volunteering for this experiment was the best thing to do. And the results are encouraging.”

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