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Uganda to use blood plasma of recovered patients for COVID-19 treatment

Convalescent plasma

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Scientists in Uganda want to use convalescent plasma from healed patients to treat COVID-19 patients.

Convalescent plasma is blood from people who’ve recovered. The plasma is picked from someone who has healed and administered to a patient, the antibodies in the plasma help fight the virus.

The treatment has been used in the past to treat measles and Ebola before vaccines were developed. It was also used during the 1918 pandemic flu. With studies ongoing to get treatments and develop vaccines, scientists from Makerere University, Uganda Blood Transfusion Service, Joint Clinical Research Centre, Mulago Hospital, The Uganda Peoples Defense Forces and Ministry of Health say that the use of plasma could be a life-altering addition in the COVID-19 fight in the country.

Prof Pauline Byakika, a member of the Scientific Committee for COVID-19 says that the use of convalescent plasma will be a quicker and straight forward avenue to handle the disease given the continued rise in cases.

Uganda at the moment has a total of 489 confirmed cases.  As of now, 72 people that were confirmed to have the disease have been treated with supportive therapy where a combination of drugs like hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and zinc are used with medicines of other existing conditions to fight the disease.

However, with study results showing that hydroxychloroquine is not effective in treating COVID-19, Prof Byakika says the use of plasma which has proven effective in countries like the United States and China have shown to be effective.

Prof Byakika says that all donors will have to be retested for COVID-19 before their plasma is picked and used. The donors will have to test negative twice within 24 hours.

The scientists have been given approval by the Uganda National Council of Science and Technology and the work of getting donors is bound to start this month.

Byakika says they are targeting 20 donors initially who will be picked from different parts of the country and transported to Mulago National Referral Hospital where the studies and blood samples will be picked and further studied.

“We have been given space in Mulago, we shall be taking all our donors there. But the first thing we shall be looking for are antibodies among the recovered patients. The more antibodies detected, the better for us to use its plasma,” Prof Byakika said.

All the confirmed cases that Uganda has recorded are asymptomatic with mild forms of the disease. Byakika says the studies to use plasma are needed more today than before because the number of confirmed cases are on the rise.

However, before the process starts, the scientists say that they need over 200 million Shillings for the process to take place. The money will be used to cater for fuel and logistics, procurement of blood collection, test kits and to put in place amenities and allowances to cater for the donors.

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