South African researchers started a study to see whether the plasma from donors who’ve had the coronavirus and developed antibodies can be used to treat those who are still sick.
Convalescent plasma treatment is part of the U.S. government’s efforts to get drugs and preventatives against Covid-19 on the market. It was recently shown to reduce the death rate of hospitalized patients, according to Johns Hopkins University. The South African trial is a first on the continent.
“The hope is that antibodies in plasma will shorten and lessen the illness,” Karin van den Berg, head of translational research at the South African National Blood Service, said Wednesday.
The service has started collecting plasma — the liquid part of blood — from donors and is waiting for the health products regulator’s approval before it can begin a randomized control trial on 600 patients.
Half of these will get plasma and the other half a placebo. Patients in the trial need to be hospitalized but can’t be so sick they are on mechanical ventilation.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, left antibodies in an infected person’s blood for around 18 months, but current research shows that this effect may start to wane after four months in those that have had Covid-19, said Marion Vermeulen, a biomedical scientist who’s also working on the trial.