Doctor seeks plasma from ex-patients

Doctor seeks plasma from ex-patients

Only 250 bags in stock for treatment

One of Thailand's top virologist, Dr Yong Poovarawan, is asking recovered Covid-19 patients to donate more plasma in anticipation of a feared second wave of novel coronavirus infections.

"Currently, we have over 250 bags of plasma, and we need more of it," said Dr Yong, virologist and paediatric hepatology professor at Chulalongkorn University.

Dr Yong led Chulalongkorn University's research team in testing the efficacy of blood plasma treatments for the most severe Covid-19 cases. Thai doctors had previously used plasma retrieved from recovered patients, in conjunction with other treatments, to stimulate patients' immune response.

He said the war against Covid-19 is "far from over", despite good news in the development of new antivirals and vaccines.

"The efficiency of currently-available medicines to treat the virus is not fully guaranteed," he said, referring to two antiviral medications which are increasingly being prescribed to treat Covid-19 across the globe.

More testing needs to be carried out on favipiravir -- an antiviral drug which has been used in Asia, including China and Thailand, to treat influenza -- to prove its efficiency in treating the disease, he said.

Meanwhile, the off-label use of remdesivir -- originally used to treat Hepatitis C -- has not been approved by authorities in the United States, Dr Yong added.

Researchers around the world are racing to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, with the hope of clearing one for mass production sometime next year.

In the absence of an approved treatment, many medical experts have turned to the use of plasma from recovered patients to treat Covid-19 patients.

For example, doctors in US have treated 5,000 patients using the 10,000 bags of plasma they had acquired in what Dr Yong said was the world's largest plasma donation drive.

Since Dr Yong's team began collecting plasma in April with the help of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and the Thai Red Cross Society, 300 recovered patients have donated their plasma.

Donors will be tested for the virus 14-days prior to donating. They must also be between 17-60 years old and weigh over 50 kilogrammes.

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