A DOSE of blood from patients who have recovered from coronavirus has been found to help others recover quicker and even save lives, according to a new study.
The study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (PNAS) found it also reduced the duration of infection and increased oxygen levels.
The findings were from preliminary research conducted at three hospitals in China, following the admission of blood plasma from previously recovered people to 10 patients still showing symptoms.
These included a fever, cough or shortness of breath, as well as some experiencing, vomiting, diarrhoea and chest pain.
The blood, also known as convalescent plasma, is rich in antibodies that the recovered patient’s immune system develops to fight the infection.
Each patient who was administered it saw reduced symptoms within three days, either disappearing completely or seeing improvements.
Two patients on mechanical ventilation were changed to high-flow nasal cannula and one patient no longer needed a high-flow nasal cannula.
While the study didn’t create a designated comparison group who would not receive the plasma, a random control group with similar symptoms were analysed.
Of that group, three patients died, while six improved and one person recovered.
The authors of the study explained: “This pilot study shows a potential therapeutic effect and low risk in the treatment of severe COVID-19 patients.
“One dose of [convalescent plasma] with a high concentration of neutralising antibodies can rapidly reduce the viral load and tends to improve clinical outcomes.”
The practice is yet to beintroduced in the UK, although are working along with other countries such as France, Germany and Canada to conduct similar tests.
The treatment has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, with hospitals in New York being some of the first to trial it.
Scientists say there’s no guarantee it’ll work but hope that it will give them time to develop new, specific treatments for coronavirus.
Using blood plasma transfusions to fight against infections has been used during other medical pandemics.
In 1918 during the flu pandemic, the technique was famously used, while a report from 1935 found that the practice also prevented an outbreak of measles at a boarding school.
How does blood plasma treatment work?
When a person gets infected by a particular germ, the body starts making specially designed proteins called antibodies to fight the infection.
After the person recovers, those antibodies float in survivors’ blood – specifically plasma, the liquid part of blood for months, even years.
This can then be extracted by drawing the blood through a tube to separate it, before being tested, purified and transfusing into the patient.
However, it doesn’t work as a long-term vaccination, and instead has temporary effects on the body, meaning additional treatments are likely needed.
Medical experts around the world are finding a range of different treatments which has helped cure patients with coronavirus.
Doctors in India have been successful in treating coronavirus with a mix of HIV, swine flu, and Malaria meds, while researchers at Rotterdam and Utrecht University say they have discovered an antibody that can fight off an infection from coronavirus.