As of this week, survivors of Covid-19 are being encouraged to take part in clinical trials involving the donation of plasma which will then be used to help treat patients on the critical list.
Trials elsewhere have shown that plasma transfusions – rich in antibodies – can make the difference between life and death.
Doctors in Italy, for example, have recorded ‘fantastic results’, in which very seriously ill patients showed marked signs of recovering within hours.
None of the patients taking part in Italy’s trials have died.
China too has been using plasma, as has Spain, France, Germany, Holland and Belgium – all of them ‘very positive’ about the results.
Said health secretary António Lacerda Sales on Monday: “We have to keep finding solutions. We are all playing our part, and I thank our investigators”.
To donate, all patients have to do is sign up online to the IPST (institute of blood and transplantation). They will then receive instructions as to where to go for their blood to be ‘processed’ and the plasma harvested.
Explain reports, there are currently 10 centres “distributed over the country” open for this purpose.
The criteria for participation is being coordinated by IPST in coordination with the DGS health authority, Infarmed, the national Dr Ricardo Jorge institute and the Lisbon institute of molecular medicine.
IPST president Maria Antónia Escoval told reporters on Monday that, as with blood donations, plasma donations will be ‘anonymous’. Key is quantification. In other words, the therapy relies on the volume of antibodies transferred for treatment to actually work.
Ms Escoval used the opportunity to make an appeal to habitual blood donors to resume their practice of giving blood as hospitals are ‘returning to normal’ and will start needing it again.
“Blood cannot be made artificially and every day there are patients that require it, particularly cancer patients, but also now people being rescheduled for surgeries”, she said.
Plasma is not a cure, warns doctor
Needless to say Italian pneumologist Giuseppe De Donno has warned that no-one can think that the use of plasma is a cure for Covid-19. It has had exceptional results. In one case a 28-year-old admitted to hospital on a Friday, needing immediate ventilation, was integrated into a clinical trial using plasma and within hours his temperature had dropped and he was able to be taken off the ventilator. By Sunday the young man was back home. But “we cannot feed false hopes”, said Dr De Donno. “When some organs are affected, the antibodies in the plasma can defeat the virus, but the damage already done will still mean the patient dies”.