Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has killed nearly 8,000 people since November and no known cure can stop it. The novel coronavirus strain (SARS-CoV-2) attacks the body with flu-like and pneumonia-like symptoms.
Although most patients will experience mild symptoms, coronavirus can be lethal among elderly age groups and people with underlying health problems.
Because of the danger to life, researchers have looked at past coronavirus and flu outbreaks to find a potential cure and treatment.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the US are exploring the possibility of using the blood of COVID-19 patients to treat others.
The method was previously used during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic and the 2003 SARS outbreak.
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The century-old technique relies on the natural antibodies an infected person develops after being attacked by a virus.
The antibodies can be found in the blood and plasma, which is a yellowish liquid that makes up more than half of your blood volume.
If successfully applied, the technique could naturally boost the immune system of a recently infected person.
Alternatively, the treatment could slow the spread of coronavirus in healthy people while researchers work on a proper vaccine.
Arturo Casadevall, a Johns Hopkins immunologist, said: “Deployment of this option requires no research or development.
“It could be deployed within a couple of weeks since it relies on standard blood-banking practices.”
It could be deployed within a couple of weeks
Arturo Casadevall, Johns Hopkins University
To make the treatment a viable practice, COVID-19 patients would need to make blood donations from which an antibody serum could be isolated.
In the US, as of 8.28pm GMT (3.28pm EST), doctors have confirmed nearly 6,000 infections since last November.
Globally, more than 196,000 people have caught the highly infectious disease.
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The procedure involves drawing an antibody serum from a patient’s blood.
The serum is then filtered to remove any toxins and illnesses that could put the next patient at an even greater risk.
The procedure is fairly simple by modern standards and has been in use since the Spanish Flu.
Dr Casadevall said it is as safe as a having a blood transfusion.
Most hospitals and blood banks should have the technology already in place to carry out the treatment.
Dr Casadevall said: “It’s all doable – but to get it done it requires effort organisation, resources and people who have recovered from the disease who can donate the blood.”
However, he said many people have already stepped up to the challenge at Johns Hopkins.
The university is now working on putting the right systems in place and Dr Casadevall believes the treatment “could do a lot locally”.
He said: “We will learn new science from this calamity.”
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