As COVID-19 continues to be a public health burden with the lack of existing vaccines, the University of the Philippines - Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) with support from the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) will conduct the project: “Convalescent Plasma as Adjunctive Therapy for Hospitalized Patients with COVID-19.”
Adjunctive therapy is a treatment used to support the main or primary treatment of diseases. As definite therapy for COVID-19 is still lacking, the project aims to evaluate the efficacy and safety of convalescent plasma transfusion as adjunctive therapy to prevent disease progression among hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Convalescent plasma is taken from the blood of patients who recovered from infection and contains neutralizing antibodies against it.
According to Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the Health Emergencies Program of the World Health Organization (WHO), the use of convalescent plasma transfusion is a valid approach in treating infectious diseases as demonstrated in previous outbreaks such as the H1N1 influenza virus pandemic, 2003 SARS-CoV-1 epidemic, and the 2012 MERS-CoV epidemic. In a press conference in Geneva last February, he explained that through the transfusion, “you're giving (the patients) a boost of antibodies to hopefully get them through the very difficult phase.”
“For the past months, we have been mobilizing our resources and maximizing our capacities to help combat COVID-19. Through this project, we are hoping to provide supportive treatment to COVID-19 patients to avoid worst-case scenarios,” DOST-PCHRD Executive Director Jaime C. Montoya says. “If the project proves to be successful, we can also contribute to developing a treatment that will help reduce the mortality rate of COVID-19,” he adds.
Aside from potentially developing locally-produced convalescent plasma which may be used as part of the COVID-19 treatment regime, the project also aims to strengthen the capacities of healthcare professionals in its clinical use, not only for COVID-19, but also for other emerging infections in the future.
The team has started the call for blood donations from COVID-19 survivors last April 2020. The project will run for 12 months.
- Written by Jwynne Gwyneth Macan