Canadian researchers will study whether the plasma of recovered patients can be used to treat COVID-19, in an April 9, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Researchers to study whether plasma of recovered patients can treat COVID-19

Plasma is the liquid portion of the blood that contains the antibodies that protect against illness

Researchers from across Canada will collaborate on a vast clinical trial to study whether the plasma of recovered patients can be used to treat COVID-19.

The study, the largest to date ever done on the subject, will include about 50 Canadian institutions, including 15 in Quebec.

“It’s a therapy to treat the illness,” said one of the lead researchers, Dr. Philippe Begin of Montreal’s CHU Ste-Justine hospital.

“We’re talking about passive immunizations, while with a vaccine we’re talking about active immunization.”

Passive immunization consists of transfusing plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 — called convalescent plasma — to patients in the early stages of the illness in order to provide protective antibodies and hopefully limit the severity of symptoms.

Plasma is the liquid portion of the blood that contains the antibodies that protect against illness.

Begin cited the proverb, “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” Teaching someone to fish, he said, would be the equivalent of a vaccine that prompts the body to make its own antibodies.

But with no vaccine available, convalescent plasma is the best alternative.

ALSO READ: ‘Tremendous’ response from blood donors has supply keeping pace with demand

“But now we don’t have time, because we don’t yet know how to fish, so we can’t really teach it,” he said. “So the idea is that we just give the antibodies created by someone else.”

The approach was used before the development of vaccines to combat epidemics, and it’s not the first time the idea of using convalescent plasma has been raised in the fight against COVID-19. But thus far, the evidence in favour remains largely anecdotal and of poor scientific quality.

The study will include researchers from the Universite de Montreal, the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, Hema-Quebec, McMaster University, and Sunnybrook and SickKids hospitals in Toronto, among others.

Begin admitted researchers are running “a little blind” when it comes to the use of plasma.

“We don’t have a ton of studies that tell us, it takes this kind of antibody, or this amount of plasma,” he said.

The best way to get answers is to assemble as much data as possible, as quickly as possible, he said.

“We want to go fast, and the best way to go fast is have several of us following the same protocol to put all the data together,” he said.

“We have colleagues in other countries who are interested and with whom we share our protocols.”

Plasma will be collected about a month after a patient recovers, when antibody levels are at their highest. COVID-19 was first reported in Quebec in late February, and the number of potential donors in the province remains low, although it’s growing.

Therefore, the researchers have decided the convalescent plasma will be reserved for those who are suffering from the illness, although it’s not out of the question that it could be offered later to at-risk groups, such as health-care workers, as a preventive measure.

The study is expected to last about three months and involve more than 1,000 patients.

Jean-Benoit Legault, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bears are back and they’re not social distancing from humans

As you’re out working in your yard, take care of some items that might attract hungry bears

Funding available for South Cariboo charities

Funding is part of the Government of Canada’s $350 million Emergency Support Fund

High tech fish transport system set up to ‘whoosh’ salmon past Big Bar landslide

Fish will spend about 20 seconds inside the system, moving at roughly 20 metres per second

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Nanaimo senior clocked going 50 km/hr over limit says her SUV shouldn’t be impounded

RCMP say they can’t exercise discretion when it comes to excessive speeding tickets

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

B.C. Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Three-time world and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is part of 11-member class

Risk of COVID-19 low in schools, Interior Health states

Medical Health Officer reassures parents as some children and staff head back to class June 1

Most Read