A coronavirus treatment already approved in the UK and US which uses blood from recovered patients can help the infected get better within three days, a study has found.
The experimental treatment also reduced the length of infection and boosted oxygen levels in those with Covid-19, new findings show
Ten COVID-19 patients in China who were severely ill in hospital saw their symptoms disappear or rapidly improve within 72 hours after the therapy.
They were given a dose of plasma donated from COVID-19 survivors, which had the antibodies necessary for their immune system to clear the virus.
Known as convalescent plasma therapy, it has recently been given the green light by medical regulators in the UK and US to trial on critically ill patients.
The promising therapy, which was first used a century ago in the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, has been used already in China and the US.
As well as proving to be life-saving, the therapy appears to be safe so far, with no serious side effects observed in the small study group.
It comes after a New York City mother who survived coronavirus last week became one of the first Americans to donate her blood plasma in hope of helping others. Tiffany Pinckney, 39, said she felt like ‘a beacon of hope’ for those suffering.
Professor David Tappin, a senior research fellow at the University of Glasgow, has applied to the UK’s National Institute for Health Research to run two clinical trials with convalescent plasma.
“The outcomes are also encouraging for these patients,” he said. But he added that to be sure plasma improved on the natural course of the disease, and that it was safe in larger groups of patients, formal trials had to take place.
Professor Munir Pirmohamed, the president of the British Pharmacological Society, says the treatment should be carefully examined.
“This was not a randomised trial and all patients also received other treatments including antivirals such as remdesivir, which are currently in trials for Covid-19,” he said.
“It is also important to remember that there are potential safety concerns with convalescent plasma, including transmission of other agents and antibody enhancement of disease,” he added. “Even if shown to work, availability to treat large numbers of patients may become an issue.”