Quest for COVID-19 cure: PGH needs blood samples from recovered patients

By: Jovic Yee - Inquirer.net - Inquirer.net | April 04,2020 - 01:14 PM

The Philippine General Hospital (PGH) is asking people who have recovered from the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to make blood donations so these can be studied and used to possibly treat other infected patients.

PGH spokesperson Jonas del Rosario explained that the blood of convalescent patients, specifically its plasma, contains antibodies that helped them fight SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the respiratory illness.

“Convalescent plasma” has been prescribed for various infections since the first Nobel Prize for Medicine was conferred in 1901 on Prussian physiologist Emil von Behring for developing an antitoxin for the diphtheria bacteria.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also issued guidelines for its experimental use on people afflicted with the Ebola virus in 2014.

Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed the emergency use of convalescent plasma to treat some patients in New York and Texas.

Screening process

“It is possible that convalescent plasma that contains antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 might be effective against the infection. Use of convalescent plasma has been studied in outbreaks of other respiratory infections, including the 2009-2010 H1N1 influenza virus pandemic, 2003 SARS-CoV-1 epidemic and the 2012 MERS-CoV epidemic,” the FDA said in its March 24 advisory.

As of Friday, 52 patients in the country have recovered from the disease, two of them Chinese while the rest are Filipinos.

Del Rosario asked that the recovered patients contact Dr. Sandy Maganito at 0917-8053207 to facilitate their blood donation. They will be made to undergo the usual blood screening process to ensure they are fit to be donors.

According to Del Rosario, the PGH initiative is “independent” from the WHO-led Solidarity Trial, in which the Philippines is taking part to find a cure for COVID-19.

Dr. Socorro Escalante, COVID-19 incident manager for WHO-Western Pacific region, explained that Solidary Trial aims “to test the safety and effectiveness of several potential medicines across different countries.”

PH delegation

“This includes the usual care that is provided to the patients in their respective countries,” Escalante said.

She added that among the drugs to be studied are remdesivir, a drug that is under research for the treatment of other coronaviruses; the anti-HIV drugs lopinavir and ritonavir, and the combination of the two and interferon; and the antimalaria drug chloroquine.

Earlier, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Philippine delegation to the study would be led by Marissa Alejandria, president of the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. Alejandria will be joined by Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, who will serve as the Department of Health’s liaison to the WHO.

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