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Evidence supporting the use of convalescent plasma to treat disease dates back to the early 1900s when physicians transfused blood products from recovered influenza patients to treat the sick. Findings from a recent study indicate that convalescent plasma is a viable treatment for patients with severe or life-threatening COVID-19.
The study, which was conducted in early 2020, involved 25 patients admitted to hospitals in Houston, Texas, who were diagnosed with severe and/or life-threatening COVID-19. Symptoms of severe disease include shortness of breath, rapid breathing, and low blood oxygen saturation. Symptoms of life-threatening disease include respiratory failure, sepsis, and/or multiple organ dysfunction or failure. The patients were between the ages of 19 and 77 years, and the majority had at least one underlying health problem, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, or other conditions.
Each of the patients received plasma donated from people who had recovered from COVID-19 and had been asymptomatic for two weeks. The recipients were evaluated on the day of their transfusion and again at one week and two weeks afterward. They were rated on a six-point scale reflecting their clinical status.
One week after receiving the transfusion, nine of the patients improved by at least one point on the clinical status scale, and seven of these were discharged. Two weeks after the transfusion, 19 of the patients improved by at least one point, and 11 of these had been discharged. None of the patients experienced any adverse events related to the transfusion, but one patient died from an unrelated condition.
These findings suggest that convalescent plasma is a safe treatment option for patients with severe and/or life-threatening COVID-19 disease. However, the authors of the study acknowledged that co-administration of other therapies could have confounded their results, with some treatments either improving or worsening outcomes.
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