Study Casts Doubt on Plasma as COVID Treatment

By Ernie Mundell

HealthDay reporter

WEDNESDAY, November 25, 2020 (HealthDay News) – At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, anecdotal reports suggested that infusing very ill patients with blood plasma from people who had survived the disease could help improve outcomes.

But the results of the study published on November 24 in the New England Journal of Medicine, as well as disappointing results from previous trials, suggest that these initial hopes may have been unfounded.

The new study was conducted by researchers in Argentina. He compared the results of 228 COVID-19 hospital patients who received an infusion of so-called “convalescent plasma” to those of 105 patients who did not (the “placebo group”). They were all so sick that they developed pneumonia.

However, a month later, “no significant difference was noted between the convalescent plasma group and the placebo group” in terms of clinical outcomes, with around 11% of patients dying in both groups, according to a team led by the Dr VA Simonovich from the Italian Hospital in Buenos Aires.

The theory behind the use of blood plasma from survivors in people battling COVID-19 is that the plasma contains immune system agents that could help recipients in their fight against the disease.

But an earlier study in India – this time in patients with “moderate” COVID-19 – also found little benefit from treatment in preventing the disease from progressing to a more severe stage. This study was conducted by Dr Anup Agarwal of the Indian Council for Medical Research in New Delhi, and was published on October 22 in the BMJ.

According to an independent US expert on either trial, it may be time to ditch convalescent plasma as a viable COVID-19 treatment.

“There have been several major trials that have shown the same results: convalescent plasma does not appear to have an impact on the course of COVID-19,” said Dr Mangala Narasimhan. She is Senior Vice President and Director of Critical Care Services at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, NY

Narasimhan also noted that in the Argentinian trial, “even with a good measure of how much antibody they gave people [in the transfusions], no advantage was observed. “

She believes other treatments should remain first-line options for severe COVID-19.

“The new monoclonal antibodies will give a more targeted and reliable antibody load to COVID-19 patients and could impact the course of the disease if given early after positive tests,” said Narasimhan.

More information

Learn more about how to treat coronavirus at home from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: New England Journal of Medicine, November 24, 2020; Mangala Narasimhan, DO, SVP, Director of Critical Care Services, Northwell Health, New Hyde Park, NY

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