Houston hospital first in US to try coronavirus blood transfusion therapy

A prominent American hospital here has infused the blood of a patient, who has recovered from Covid-19, in a critically ill patient, making it the first medical facility in the country to try experimental therapy.

The individual, who has been in good health for more than two weeks since being diagnosed with the deadly coronavirus, has donated blood plasma for what is known as serum convalescent therapy at the Houston Methodist Hospital.

The concept dates back to the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

“Convalescent serum therapy could be a vital route of treatment because unfortunately there is relatively little to offer for many patients, except supportive care, and ongoing clinical trials will take some time,” said said Dr. Eric Salazar, medical scientist at the Methodist’s Research Institute. in a report.

“We don’t have much time,” said Salazar.

Treatment was accelerated at the patient’s bedside over the weekend as the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic jumped for more than 2,000 people in the United States, including 34 in Texas.

On Friday, Methodist began recruiting blood plasma donors from 250 patients who tested positive for the virus in hospitals across the system. Donors donated one liter of blood plasma in a procedure, much like donating whole blood.

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Houston Methodist president and CEO Marc Boom said he felt compelled to try.

“There is so much to learn about this disease as it occurs. If an infusion of convalescent serum can help save the life of a critically ill patient, then use all the resources in our blood bank , our expert faculty and our university medical service center are incredibly helpful and important to do, “he said in a statement.

The plasma of a person who has recovered from Covid-19 contains antibodies produced by the immune system to attack the virus. The hope is that transfusion of such plasma into a patient who is still fighting the virus can transfer the potency of the antibodies into a curative, possibly life-saving therapy.

In addition to its use in 1918, convalescent serum therapy was also attempted during an epidemic of diphtheria in the 1920s, an epidemic of flesh-eating bacteria in the 1930s, and other epidemics of infectious diseases.

There are nearly 2,500 confirmed cases in Texas, including 810 in the Houston area. Six people died here and 47 recovered.

A vaccine is in preparation but will not be ready for the general population for at least a year and a half, and the drugs are undergoing clinical trials which could take eight to ten months to produce convincing results.

Convalescent plasma therapy, if it works, could be a more immediate treatment with a relatively abundant source of supply: to date, thousands of people have recovered.

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