Why has Vietnam not used plasma to treat Covid-19?

The method of plasma transfusion to treat Covid-19 has been studied by the Central Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Vinmec Hospital and the National Institute of Hematology – Blood Transfusion since August 2020, and then stopped.

To date, very few Covid-19 patients have been treated with this therapy.

There are many reasons why this method was in limited use last year. According to a doctor treating Covid-19 at the Central Hospital for Tropical Diseases, when he first contracted the disease, the amount of nCoV in the body was high, so it was not suitable for plasma transfusion. By the second week, the disease is often severe due to an excessive immune response and the viral load is reduced, so the plasma of the recovered person is of little value. In addition, after recovering from Covid-19, the amount of plasma antibodies decreases rapidly, making it less likely to get plasma with a strong protective effect.

For Covid-19 patients, experts must carefully consider treatment methods because each patient’s condition is different, this doctor said.

Professor Nguyen Thanh Liem, former director of the National Children’s Hospital, on September 21 explained the principle of plasma transfusion method is to use antibodies already in people who have recovered from the disease to support new patients. Antibodies can help reduce the amount of virus in the body of an infected person, thereby reducing the severity of the disease. Plasma transfusion recipients need strong enough antibodies, plasma recipients need blood type compatibility, just like blood transfusions.

According to Professor Liem, “the situation is different now”. “The plasma donation method last year has not been implemented because there are few people infected. Currently, the number of Covid-19 patients is large, so it can be researched to treat this method,” he said.

Therefore, Professor Liem proposed to Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh about two methods of Covid-19 treatment that have been successfully applied in the world, including early umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cell infusion and plasma (plasma) infusion. of people who have recovered from Covid-19. On the afternoon of September 20, the Prime Minister asked the Ministry of Health to study the professor’s proposal.

Plasma therapy has been used around the world for many years. However, the doctors did not pay attention to the quantification of antibody levels, still transfused plasma with low antibody levels. Now, when researching to use plasma therapy in the treatment of Covid-19 patients, experts will carefully select, using only plasma with strong enough antibody concentrations. Plasma, after being extracted, isolated, and infused into the body, will help patients on treatment against the virus, and at the same time reduce the severity of their condition, according to Professor Liem.

A doctor treats and takes care of people with Covid-19 at the Covid-19 Resuscitation Center at Ho Chi Minh City Oncology Hospital on September 13. Photo: Quynh Tran.

According to an expert from the Vietnam Association of Infectious Diseases, the method of using plasma has been applied very well in some cases, such as the previous Ebola epidemic, saving many patients. With Covid-19, studies evaluating the plasma method are only effective for patients with early-stage viral infections, when nCoV is multiplying and developing, antibodies to neutralize that virus are needed.

In addition, when treating a group of severe Covid-19 patients, the plasma infusion method has some barriers. The decisive goal in treatment at this time is not to kill nCoV, but to focus on inhibiting the body’s overreaction, so it is difficult to prescribe plasma.

If indicated to use plasma on early Covid-19 patients, it may be effective, but the number of patients is too much, there is not enough plasma to meet. In fact, mobilizing plasma donors is not easy, because many people with Covid-19 have just recovered, their bodies are tired, not to mention patients with underlying medical conditions.

Thuy Quynh – Chile


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