Passive immunisation may slow down COVID-19 infection: Study

Dubai: Researchers have revealed that passive vaccine or passive immunisation (PI) can provide instant, short-term fortification against infectious agents and slow down coronavirus (COVID-19).

Passive immunisation is the term used when an antibody formed in one individual is given to another individual who is at risk of infection — the protection is temporary.

Finding a vaccine for COVID-19 has become a global public health priority. However, creating a viable vaccine might take a long time; scientists estimate a vaccine may be available in between 12 and 18 months.

“Using valuable plasma from recovered patients might be useful in our global war against COVID-19,” explained Foad Alzoughool from the Hashemite University in Jordan.

According to the study, published in the International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine, after exposure to a viral infection, an individual’s body creates antibodies to fight off the virus. These antibodies in the blood of a recovered patient can be collected as convalescent plasma and transferred to the blood of a newly infected patient where it can neutralize the pathogen, eliminate it from the bloodstream, and boost immunity.

While PI does not provide long-term protection against the virus, it can reduce the aggressiveness and mortality rate of infection. The use of PI immunisation dates to the beginning of the twentieth century during the Spanish flu epidemic when patients who received convalescent plasma serum had lower mortality rates than others.

Experimental usage of PI during outbreaks of Ebola virus, chikungunya virus and the H1N1 flu also shows the potential of using PI in the prevention and treatment of viral infections.There is evidence as well of the effectiveness of the PI technique in the SARS-CoV epidemic in Guandong, China and the MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia, particularly if it is introduced soon after symptom onset.

In one report, patients who received PI had a significantly shorter hospital stay and lower mortality than other groups. In another, patients who received convalescent plasma before day 14 of illness had a higher discharge rate.

Healthcare workers who were infected with SARS-CoV and failed to respond to treatment survived after transfusion with convalescent plasma.

“If you are looking for COVID-19 treatment, you will find it in the blood of survivors,” said Alanagreah. “In a time when no registered antiviral drug or vaccine is available, PI might help in slowing down the deadly virus and save lives, particularly for the elderly and patients with pre-existing conditions,” Alanagreah added.

More than 1.5 million people have recovered from the disease, and many of them would be willing to donate plasma to help slow down the pandemic, the researchers noted. In India, the Union Ministry for Health and Family Welfare last Friday said that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has got approval from the National Ethics Committee for the trail of convalescent plasma therapy to assess its effectiveness in the treatment of COVID-19.

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