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Uganda to produce COVID-19 prophylactic treatments from donated plasma

COVID-19

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  Uganda is set to start production of possible preventive treatments for COVID-19 using plasma from recovered patients. 

Antibodies from the plasma of recovered patients will be harvested and processed into either capsules or injections that can be given to patients that test positive for the disease and present with symptoms. The preventative treatments will also be given to confirmed contacts of cases to stop them from moving from one form of the disease to another,  Dr Monica Musenero, an epidemiologist and senior presidential advisor on epidemics told Uganda Radio Network.

“We have ordered for a machine that will help us to di this. We expect it to arrive in the country in November and hopefully, we should have a treatment by the end of the year,” Musenero said.

Uganda is currently using convalescent plasma to treat severely ill patients. So far, as of September 2020, two persons were successfully transfused with the plasma. According to medics on the study, patients are responding to the treatment.

Research findings indicate that convalescent plasma from donors who have recovered from COVID-19 may be most promising when used as prophylaxis or when administered shortly after symptom onset. The immediate use of convalescent plasma provides prompt availability of a promising treatment while specific vaccines and treatments are evaluated.

Each patient receiving plasma at Mulago takes a dose of at least two units. Musenero says with the production of the prophylaxis tablets, it may take four or more tablets for one to be protected against the disease.

Dr Bruce Kirenga, a lung expert and also an investigator on the Convalescent plasma study says they are trying to develop a number of treatments that can be locally produced here.

In addition to this, Kirenga says they are working towards producing monoclonal antibodies that will be picked from T-cells in the blood of recovered patients. Once picked, scientists in laboratories can then mass produce neutralizing antibodies that can stop the spread of the disease in the body. He says production of some of these treatments will make it affordable for the country to use them compared to importing them from abroad.

“We cannot keep on telling patients to give us their plasma. So we are now looking at producing monoclonal manufacturing and the prophylaxis treatment. These will put us in a better position to be able to avail options for COVID-19 patients,” he says.

Use of blood products from recovered patients dates back to the late 1800s. However, the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918–1920, was the first viral infection for which convalescent blood products were found to be potentially effective during clinical studies.

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