Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The World Health Organization-WHO has updated its guidelines on COVID-19 therapeutics, excluding use of convalescent plasma for non-severe COVID-19 patients.
While the organization gives researchers testing efficacy of plasma in treating severe and critical COVID-19 patients in clinical trials a go ahead, they say in their latest statement that current evidence shows that convalescent plasma does not improve survival or reduce the need for mechanical ventilation, while it has significant costs.
Convalescent plasma as treatment involves transfusion of blood plasma from someone who has recovered from COVID-19 to treat those that are sick.
With this treatment, researchers have been exploring the possibilities of making antibodies in the laboratory whereby they draw blood from donors who have recovered from COVID-19, extract cells and trick them to produce antibodies which can later be given as an injection or drip to patients.
In Uganda, studies had been launched in June last year to test whether patients who were seeking treatment from Mulago National Referral and selected Regional Referral hospitals could recover with the treatment but according to Dr. Bruce Kirenga, a lung expert who was the lead investigator on the study, participants never showed any signs of responding to the treatment.
This study has since been discontinued. Their results are indeed quite similar with what the WHO panel of experts has found. The experts looked at pooled data from 16 randomized controlled trials, including 16,236 patients with non-severe, severe, and critical Covid-19 infection.
They found plasma had no benefit for non-severe patients, although they note that data on severe and critically ill patients was inconclusive, a reason they are suggesting that studies in these groups should continue.
Meanwhile, earlier in the pandemic, countries in the West had started using plasma treatment after small studies found this treatment led to faster recovery and prevents death.