St. Luke’s docs see big hope in COVID-19 survivors’ plasma in fight vs pandemic
MANILA, Philippines — Recovered patients of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) might just have a “superpower” that can help those who are still suffering from the disease—their plasma.
Dr. Francisco Lopez, a hematologist at St. Luke’s Medical Center, explained that COVID-19 patients, who have recovered, produce antibodies that help fight the infection.
Thus, recovered COVID-19 patients can help others still afflicted with the disease through convalescent plasma donation.
“One requirement [for those who will donate] is they have to have two negative nasal swabs and after that, we proceed with the other tests, the standard tests—HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, malaria and other blood tests. We also [have to] really check whether they indeed already have the antibodies,” Lopez said in an interview with INQUIRER.net.
Once there is a patient in need of the plasma, medical professionals would then call on the donors for plasma to be collected.
“Their plasma is collected through the use of a machine which is called an apheresis machine. This is a cell-sorter. It can separate the red cells, the white cells on the blood products and only get the fluid portion of the blood which we call the plasma,” Lopez explained.
Recovered patients up to the age of 65 could donate, Lopez said. But those older than 65 who wish to donate need to be thoroughly screened.
Donors can also donate as soon as they receive their second negative test for COVID-19, which indicates that they indeed have recovered from the disease.
“One bag is roughly around 500 cc or half a liter and that is immediately infused to the recipient over one to two hours. The collection takes roughly an hour or less than an hour from the donor,” Lopez said.
Is it effective?
Dr. Mae Campomanes, a pulmonary consultant at St. Luke’s Medical Center, said that using convalescent plasma has been proven helpful in previous epidemics such as SARS and MERS-CoV.
“They have been able to show additional benefit in terms of recovery, time to extubate patients, symptom improvement,” Campomanes said.
Campomanes said that plasma donations only started over the weekend and it takes about a week to establish definite improvement.
However, she said that recipients of the first batch of plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients are showing improvements.
“[I am] happy to say, a couple of those who received a convalescent plasma, the X-ray results have improved,” Campomanes said.
“Oxygen status has also somewhat improved and hopefully, we will continue to monitor these patients and see further improvement towards the end of the week from the time they have been given infusion. We are very hopeful,” she added.
Aside from receiving plasma donations, COVID-19 patients will also continue with their existing regimen, such as antibiotic treatment and dialysis, among others.
“To all COVID survivors, you are now blessed to have recovered, and are blessed to have superpowers as well because you have now the antibodies to COVID-19,” Campomanes said.
“We’re calling on your help for the other COVID-19 patients still suffering inside the hospital that if you could share your antibodies with them through this convalescent plasma, then that would be great,” she added.
Among the institutions and facilities offering convalescent plasma donation services are the St. Luke’s Medical Center and the Philippine General Hospital.
As of Sunday, April 12, the Department of Health (DOH) said there are 4,648 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country, with the death toll reaching 297.
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Donors are requested to call St. Luke’s Quezon city at 8-723-0301 extension 4725 or St. Luke’s Global City-Taguig at 8-789-7700 extension 2096
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