HYDERABAD: A coronavirus patient at the city’s Civil Hospital has shown improvement after being given plasma therapy, a senior official at the health facility said on Tuesday.
The Sindh Health Department on Thursday had allowed three hospitals in the province — two in Karachi and one in Hyderabad — to start experimental use of COVID-19 convalescent plasma for the treatment of patients who are infected with the novel coronavirus and are showing moderate to severe symptoms.
Convalescent plasma is taken from the blood of patients who have already recovered from the disease; in this case, COVID-19. It is rich in antibodies and can help other patients recover faster if it is administered properly and in the right circumstances.
Dr Shahid Junejo, Medical Superintendent at the Civil Hospital, said that the patient on whom the therapy was trialed has shown improvement.
“The decision for the trial was taken after consultation with the vice chancellor of the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences Jamshoro, Prof Bikha Ram Devrajani,” he said.
“Patient’s pulse rate and oxygen saturation are normal after the procedure,” Dr Junejo added.
The three health facilities that have been allowed by the provincial government to start clinical trials are the Dr Ruth KM Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK), the National Institute of Blood Diseases (NIBD) and Hyderabad’s Liaquat University Hospital.
“Following Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa [KP], the Sindh Health Department has also allowed clinical trials of convalescent plasma for the treatment of COVID-19 patients at three of the province’s hospitals,” NIBD head Prof Dr Tahir Shamsi had earlier told The News.
“We are now going to select 350 COVID-19 patients under treatment at nine health facilities in the country and start clinical trials of convalescent plasma on them,” said the eminent haematologist.
Dr Shamsi said the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan had allowed medical professionals to start clinical trials of the use of convalescent plasma in the country.
Following that, he added, the health departments of Punjab, KP, Balochistan and Sindh had allowed them to use the technique, also known as passive immunisation, to treat patients infected with COVID-19.
“Our aim is to prevent COVID-19 patients under treatment at different hospitals from going onto life support. We believe convalescent plasma taken from healthy COVID-19 patients, which is rich in coronavirus antibodies, can reduce the viral load in the bodies of infected patients and help them recover faster.”
Dr Shamsi said the technique is used when there is a high risk of infection and insufficient time for the body to develop its own immune response or to reduce the symptoms of ongoing or immunosuppressive diseases.
“A team of health experts including haematologists, infectious disease specialists, intensivists (or ICU specialists) and a representative of the Sindh Blood Transfusion Authority will supervise the clinical trials at the three hospitals.”
He said that mainly patients undergoing treatment at the CHK in Karachi and the Liaquat University Hospital in Hyderabad would be given convalescent plasma with the hope of recovery from COVID-19.
Passive immunisation is an old technique used in the absence of a vaccine to treat infectious diseases, he added.
“We believe that with the transfusion of convalescent plasma of healthy COVID-19 patients to active patients, viral load in the bodies of the patients would reduce to an extent where they would not require the support of ventilator and they would recover from the disease.”
He said these trials would also be conducted at the Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar, the Shaikh Zayed Hospital in Quetta, the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad, the Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Hospital in Rawalpindi, and Lahore’s Pakistan Kidney & Liver Institute and Postgraduate Medical Institute.
Replying to a query, Dr Shamsi said healthy COVID-19 patients who have tested negative twice can donate their blood for plasma extraction after two weeks of recovery, adding that with one donation, they can treat two such patients.