(QCOSTARICA) Preliminary data on the use of plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients indicates that the method is safe, but it is still early to know if it is effective.
For now, there are no serious adverse effects, as confirmed by Marjorie Obando, Pharmacoepidemiology director of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS).
“The side effects seen so far are similar to those that occur in other transfusions of blood components,” said the specialist to La Nacion in an interview.
Among the main side effects seen in this type of transfusion with plasma or other blood derivatives are allergic reactions and, in some cases, mild fever.
Costa Rica applied the first dose of convalescent plasma on May 25 to a 37-year-old woman from Liberia who was hospitalized at the COVID Specialized Care Center (CEACO). She was released from the medical center on June 2.
As of August 28, 348 people hospitalized with COVID-19 had received plasma donated by 363 recovered people. Some of them have had donated three times, the maximum in a semester.
Each patient receives two bags of convalescent plasma of 200 milliliters and they are applied to them as if they were a serum.
“In the first group of 163 patients who received the plasma we found that it is a safe therapy, that this is very important, the side effects do not differ from those that are already documented when a patient receives a blood component, it is as if he received plasma of another type,” commented Obando.
Why is recovered plasma used?
At this time there are no specific treatments to treat COVID-19. When patients present a condition in which they require hospitalization, but there are no therapies aimed at the complications of the disease, they are offered the figure of compassionate use. This occurs when there are no treatment options and therapies are used that are not yet proven but are hopeful.
At this time, teams of researchers around the world are developing clinical trials to test the effectiveness of the method. The goal is to reduce mortality, complications, and hospitalization time.
The use of this convalescent plasma is based on the fact that the antibodies generated by the patients already recovered (and found in the plasma) could neutralize the action of the virus.
The clinical trial protocol must be submitted to the scientific ethics committee of the Caja for approval. But it is not only they who will decide whether the use of convalescent plasma continues or not.
According to Obando, there are other factors that must be taken into account such as the equine serum developed by the Clodomiro Picado Institute of the University of Costa Rica (ICP-UCR)
Obando said that if the equine serum gives better results, in that case, they would keep the serum and discard convalescent plasma for what is best for patients.
The serum based on horse plasma entered the clinical trial phase this Monday with four patients. The intention is to carry out this trial with 26 people admitted to four medical centers.
Of that group, 13 will receive one version of the serum and the remaining 13 another.
The intention is not only to determine how safe and effective the serum is, but also which of the two versions gives better results.
“This is not a substitute for the vaccine, we are not going to prevent people from needing a hospital, but it will prevent them from getting seriously ill and dying,” said Román Macaya, executive president of the CCSS.