Hope is springing up for a potential novel coronavirus cure after a State-owned drugmaker announced on Thursday that more than 10 patients have found relief in a therapy program involving plasma collected from recovered patients.
Twelve to 24 hours after the patients received the treatment, they exhibited improved clinical symptoms, with main inflammatory indexes significantly decreased and some key indexes such as blood oxygen saturation comprehensively improved, according to China National Biotec Group, a subsidiary of State-owned China National Pharmaceutical Group Corp.
The program began on Feb 8 with three patients in critical condition at a hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province and later expanded to include more. The donated plasma underwent strict blood safety tests, virus inactivation and antiviral activity trials, the drugmaker said.
The program was carried out three days after top health authorities released an updated version of the guideline over the diagnosis and treatment of the virus. The latest document recommended convalescent plasma for clinical use.
The drugmaker started collecting the plasma from recovered patients on Jan 20 to prepare therapeutic products including convalescent plasma and immunoglobulin. The company said it has allocated 400 million yuan ($57.2 million) in funds for the coronavirus-related research and development.
The progress comes as scientists have scrambled to find a specific drug to combat the contagion, which has killed 1,380 people on the Chinese mainland as of Thursday. Experts say recovery mainly relies on antibodies generated by the immune system.
A front line medic in Wuhan endorsed the plasma therapy at a daily news conference by the Hubei government late Thursday. Zhang Dingyu, president of Wuhan’s Jinyintan Hospital, said at a news conference in Wuhan that the therapy had started to show effects.
Zhang explained that the plasma contains large volumes of antibodies for the deadly pathogen and urged recovered patients to donate plasma for the benefit of all.
Six out of 28 patients discharged from hospitals in Shanghai on Friday have offered to donate their plasma for that very purpose, said Paper.cn, quoting a health official.
According to a recruitment statement by China National Biotec Group, donors must be confirmed as recovered novel coronavirus patients. Donors should be aged between 18 and 60 and must be healthy after being discharged.
Meanwhile, as the R&D and clinical application of the new treatment is still not adequate, extra caution should be paid during use of the new method, experts said.