(Reuters) – Patients with severe COVID-19 given plasma from someone who recovered from the disease were more likely to stabilize or need less oxygen support than other similar hospital patients, according to results of a small U.S. study released on Friday.
FILE PHOTO: A phlebotomist shows Melissa Cruz the full bag of her donated convalescent plasma, which she donated after recovering from coronavirus (COVID-19) contracted during her work as an ER technician, at the Central Seattle Donor Center of Bloodworks Northwest during the outbreak in Seattle, Washington, U.S. April 17, 2020. The plasma from recovered patients will be used in an experimental treatment study for current coronavirus patients. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson
The study showed a trend toward better survival rates, but the number of patients was small and the results cannot be interpreted as applying to patients on mechanical ventilators, researchers at New York’s Mt. Sinai Medical Center said.
Mt. Sinai analyzed outcomes for 39 hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 who received convalescent plasma transfusions compared to outcomes for patients with carefully matched medical status.
“This is a retrospective case-controlled study. It does not have the rigor of a randomized, controlled trial so that still needs to be done,” Dr. Nicole Bouvier, an infectious disease specialist at Mt. Sinai and the study’s lead author, told Reuters.
“This does show promise that convalescent plasma is effective.”
Nearly 70% of the 39 patients were on high-flow oxygen and 10% were on mechanical ventilation. After two weeks, the disease worsened in 18% of the plasma patients and 24% of the control patients.
As of May 1, nearly 13% of plasma recipients had died, compared with more than 24% of the control patients, with 72% and 67%, respectively, being discharged alive.
People who survive an infectious disease like COVID-19 are left with blood containing antibodies, or proteins made by the body’s immune system to fight off a virus. The blood component that carries the antibodies can be collected and given to newly infected patients – it is known as “convalescent plasma.”
Hospitals around the world have been using plasma donated by recovered COVID-19 patients, but there has been little information on how effective the treatment is.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on May 1 gave emergency approval to Gilead Sciences Inc’s antiviral drug remdesivir for COVID-19 based on data showing that it reduced hospitalization time by 31% compared to a placebo, but did not have a significant effect on survival.
Reporting by Deena Beasley; Editing by Tom Brown