Coronavirus: are plasma transfusions effective against the disease?

Published by Laurent P. · Published on 11 February 2021 at 15h35 · Updated on 11 February 2021 at 15h55
Is plasma transfusion an effective solution against Covid? This is one of the ongoing study topic as to cure coronavirus and it seems to deliver rather mixed results, despite an encouraging Chinese study released in April 2020. Here is more on the matter.

Is plasma transfusion THE solution to fight against Covid? This question seems to split scientists who conducted several studies ont he matter, and each of them ended up with different and... mixed results. Among the latest known, the one released this past October in BMJ that comes to the conclusion that "convalescent plasma is ineffective for Covid-19". The cure is less powerful but more "versatile", unlike monoclonal antibodies treatments also being studied.

Yet, plasma transfusion was particularly promising, accoding to a study carried out in China and published in the highly respected scientific journal  PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. How come? Thanks to plasma transfusions (and then of antibodies) from already cured people. According to this study, the first trials (still running) performed by searchers on a dozen volunteering patients from 34 to 78 years old had particularly encouraging results.

In this study, scientists noticed that symptoms in test patients (cough, breathing difficulties, fever and even chest pains) almost disappeared in some, and even completely for others. They also noticed that two patients on mechanical ventilation have been able to breathe on their own again, but with a high-flow nasal cannula and one patient needed no longer breathing support, just two days after the transfusion. Encouraging results that the study has compared with others involving patients in a similar state, but without plasma transfusion for a bigger contrast.

Encouraging results but not representative for now, as the Chinese scientific team explains in the article. But a way to relieve patients and the medical team from the sick influx. And a potential solution in a short-time period, while waiting for a vaccine to be developed. In France, a similar clinical trial of plasma transfusion from cured people is currently running, including 200 cured people and 60 Covid-19 patients. 

But this cure has limits, not on the effectiveness in patients, but its risky use as for the outbrea of variants. According to a study carried out by several scientists from the Cambridge University released in Nature, paired with Remdesivir, it could be at the origin of the mutations of the virus that led to those currently monitored, similar to the UK strain. Other studies are necessary to find out the exact limits of the transfusion's effectiveness.

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