Pakistani scientists achieve breakthrough in COVID-19 plasma treatment

Scientists await clinical trials for the potential plasma-derived treatment for COVID-19

A team of Pakistani scientists announced a “significant breakthrough” as they have prepared a plasma-derived treatment to treat patients infected with COVID-19.

The blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients carry antibodies which if transferred to an infected patient may help increase the chances of recovery.

The Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) research team led by Dr. Shaukat Ali has prepared intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) with plasma obtained from recovered coronavirus patients. The scientists are confident that they are close to one of the first approved treatments against the deadly coronavirus.

DUHS Vice-Chancellor Muhammad Saeed Quraishy called it “a very important breakthrough in the war against COVID-19” and also a “ray of hope in this time of crisis when the whole nation expects national researchers to serve the nation.”

“This way of treatment is safe, low risk and highly effective against coronavirus. Through this method, Immunoglobulin is prepared after separation of antibodies found in the blood of a recovered patient,” reads the statement, indicating this form of treatment has been approved by US Food and Drug Administration.

Plasma therapy, however, is only allowed in emergencies due to its side effects.

Lab testing and safety trial on animals successful

The DUHS team after collecting first blood sample in March 2020 managed to separate antibodies chemically, purified it and later concentrated using the ultrafiltration techniques that remove the remaining unwanted materials from the final product. “This is the first global report of isolation, formulation and safety demonstration of immunoglobulin purified from recovered COVID19 patient” the researchers claimed.

Laboratory testing and safety trial of the experimental vials in animals have been successful. The team now awaits clinical trials.

“Major step towards global efforts to control COVID-19”

Pakistan scientists termed their struggle “a major step towards international efforts for controlling COVID-19 disease mortality.” As world-renowned multinational companies collaborate to produce IVIG from recovered patients and Pakistan’s Dow University is leading global efforts by developing the first local IVIG against the strain causing COVID-19 in Pakistan.

The researchers say that COVID-19 strain prevalent in Pakistan has a few mutations, hence it is expected that the local IVIG against local virus strain will be very useful and effective.

Team behind the breakthrough research

The lead researcher Dr. Shaukat Ali is the principal of Dow College of Biotechnology while other team members include Dr. Shobha Luxmi, Dr. Sohaib Tauheed, Ayesha Ali, Syed Muneeb uddin, Mir Rashid Ali, Mujtaba Khan, Fatima Anjum.

Earlier, the DUHS researchers had discovered that certain variants of a human gene may offer resistance against the novel coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2. The findings were published in the Journal of Medical Virology.

Can plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients treat the sick?

COVID-19 convalescent plasma (CP) is a treatment that comes from the blood of other patients, those who have recovered from the coronavirus infection.

The use of CP has shown some promising results in COVID-19 patients but scientists around the world are still investigating it.

According to an article, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, five critically ill patients with COVID-19 in Shenzen, China, improved after receiving CP transfusions. However, the study concluded that the potential effectiveness of this treatment require evaluation in clinical trials due to the limited sample size of the study.

Another study in 10 patients in Wuhan, China, reported that all symptoms significantly improved.

The treatment has been effectively used to curb other viral epidemics such as SARS, MERS, and 2009 H1N1 pandemic. However, researchers plan to further investigate if that success can be replicated with COVID-19 patients.

Sana Jamal
Storyteller. Avid Reader. Learner to the core.

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