Doctors treat first U.S. coronavirus patients with convalescent plasma therapy

UNTV News   •   April 10, 2020   •   814

U.S. hospitals desperate to help very sick patients with COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, are trying a treatment first used in the 1890s that relies on blood plasma donated by recovered patients.

People who survive an infectious disease like COVID-19 are generally left with blood containing antibodies, or proteins made by the body’s immune system to fight off a virus. The blood component that carries the antibodies can be collected and given to newly infected patients – it is known as “convalescent plasma.”

More than 454,000 people in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19, more than 16,000 have died as of Thursday (April 9), according to Johns Hopkins University.

Convalescent plasma treatment is not new. It was successfully used during the 1918 flu pandemic.

“Plasma has a good track record in the past, but coronavirus is a new disease,” said Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Chair of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology Dr. Arturo Casadevall.

“We’re going to have to learn how to use it. And even though it is encouraging, and even some of the early reports are positive, I think I think that we need to be rigorous in our thinking and to test this appropriately with clinical trials.”

Casadevall is one of the doctors leading the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project.

“This is going to be something that will hopefully help us stem the epidemic, but by no means is a panacea,” he said. “We’re going to need a lot of things to conquer coronavirus, including vaccines, drugs, better antibodies, a lot of things in the future. This is just one of the many options that could help us.”

On March 28, two hospitals in the U.S. began treating COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma; Houston Methodist and Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

Dr. Ania Wajnberg directs Mount Sinai’s Serum Antibody Program.

“About 35 patients have received plasma at Mount Sinai. The first one was not even two weeks ago, about a week and a half ago. So we don’t yet have enough data to say our findings, but we are hopeful that this is going to be helpful for these patients. We are tracking them incredibly carefully for their clinical progress, and other data that we use to monitor and hopefully in about two weeks we will be able to tell you and the world what we’re finding so far.”

The convalescent plasma therapy process takes up to 90 minutes, and plasma from a single donor can be used to treat three or four patients.

Donors must have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and need to wait a defined period of time after they test negative for the disease before donating plasma. Tests are also being developed to measure antibody volume.

Wajnberg said the trials will seek to answer several questions: “Can they be reinfected or not? How long will they remain immune? How long will they remain at a high level versus a low level? Those are all things that we plan to look at, and have huge implications on our healthcare workforce and potentially the workforce of the world as we reopen society.”

In one trial in China, levels of the virus in five seriously ill COVID-19 patients were undetectable after plasma transfusions, according to study results published in late March in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

“I think we’re going to learn more and more as we go,” said Wajnberg. “We just need to monitor them for a couple of weeks and see how they do.”

“What I will tell you so far is that we haven’t seen any bad side effects, which is also really important when you’re starting a new treatment. So that’s encouraging and I hope in like the next two weeks, we’ll have more data to share,” she said. “Ultimately our goal is to see them recover.” (Reuters)

(Production: Angela Moore)

DOH asks hospitals to increase bed capacity to accommodate more COVID-19 patients

Marje Pelayo   •   July 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) is asking hospitals across the country to increase their bed capacity to accommodate more coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients.

This is because most major hospitals in Metro Manila are already in the danger zone or nearing full capacity due to the surge of COVID-19 cases. 

Administrative Order No.2020-0016 states that hospitals must allot 30% bed capacity for COVID-19 cases; but currently, public hospitals are utilizing 20% bed capacity while 9% in private hospitals.

Commitment po ng mga private hospitals po na maglaan ng 20 percent ng kanilang total functional bed capacity for COVID. Nakiusap ako na kung pwedeng kung kailangan ay dagdagan pa ng 10 percent para maging 30 percent,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said. 

[It is the commitment of private hospitals to allot 20 percent of their total functional bed capacity for COVID. I asked them, if possible, to increase their capacity by 10 percent to make it 30 percent.]

Samantala ang atin pong mga pampublikong mga hospital ay atin pong pinakiusap ay yung 30 percent naman nila na allocated for COVID ay kinakailangan up to 50 percent ng kanilang bed capacity,” he added.

[Meanwhile, our private hospitals were also asked to increase bed capacity from 30 percent and make it 50 percent for COVID patients.]

At present, four major hospitals in Metro Manila have declared full capacity and can no longer accept COVID-19 patients. 

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed concern over the Philippines’ problems with bed capacity for COVID-19 cases. 

WHO Active Country Rep. Dr. Rabindra Abesayinghe recommends that only the severe and critical cases who needed critical care in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) be accepted to address the matter. 

“Other measures that need to be done and the government is practicing now is encouraging the management of mild cases or asymptomatic positives in so called isolation centers, rather than admitting them to hospitals,” he said. 

“Because mild or asymptomatic people don’t require the facilities available in a hospital to manage them,” he added. MNP (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

Defense chief Lorenzana to go on quarantine after staff contracts COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   July 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday said he would go on self-quarantine after a member of his staff tested positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Lorenzana, who heads the National Task Force Against COVID-19, said his staff learned of his positive swab test result when they landed together in Jolo, Sulu on Monday.

He said his aide was also with him when they went to Subic, Zambales last Friday.

The Defense chief, however, assured that the said staff member did not interact with President Rodrigo Duterte during their Jolo trip.

Lorenzana said he already underwent swab testing and will await the result while on quarantine.

This is not the first time that Lorenzana went on quarantine as he voluntarily went on isolation in May for having close contact with Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Felimon Santos Jr. who contracted and recovered from the disease.

Gov’t assigns anti-COVID-19 czars to boost fight against virus

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 14, 2020

The Duterte Administration assigned anti-COVID czars to intensify the country’s response against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The Malacañang admitted that the number of COVID-19 cases in the country continues to rise but it assured that the administration is still in control of the situation.

Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, Jr. introduced the four anti-COVID czars, namely, Secretary Vivencio Dizon as Chief Testing Czar, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong as Chief Tracing Czar, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar as Chief Isolation Czar, and Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega as Chief Treatment Czar.

Roque explained that all four anti-COVID czars will be directly under the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) led by Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.

Mas malawakang targeted testing, mas maraming isolation centers, mas matinding tracing, at mas matinding treatment para sa mga nagkakasakit. Lahat po yan sa ilalim ng NTF, sa ilalim ng ating Chief Implementer Secretary Galvez (More extensive targeted testing, additional isolation centers, improved contact tracing, and better quality of treatment for patients. All of these will be under the NTF, under Chief Implementer Secretary Galvez),” Roque said.

Chief Testing Czar Secretary Dizon reported there are now 85 COVID-19 laboratories nationwide, with nearly 1 million tests done as of July 11. Daily tests as of July 9 reached 25,000, nearing the 30,000 daily tests target by end of the month.

For tracing, Chief Tracing Czar Mayor Magalong said they are seeking to intensify skills training for contact tracers and use a contact tracing e-system composed of a COVID-19 data collection tool, a GIS (geographical information system) platform, and a Link Analysis Tool.

Chief Isolation Czar Secretary Villar said they plan to construct more quarantine facilities nationwide. Aside from the existing 129 regional evacuation centers, they are also building quarantine facilities in Region 7, Region 8, Region 10, and in Region 12.

Meanwhile, Chief Treatment Czar Dr. Vega said expanding hospital capacity will be one of his priorities. He also introduced One Hospital Command which will be in charge of both public and private hospitals and quarantine facilities in terms of planning healthcare capacity among others.

Galvez also said the NTF will also focus on the economy and social recovery of the country.

Nandito po tayo sa sitwasyon na dahan-dahan nating binubuksan ang ating ekonomiya. Bagaman nandito po ang threat ng virus, kailangan na nating i-recover ang ating mga ekonomiya para manumbalik po ang negosyo at trabaho ng ating mamamayan (We are in a situation where we are slowly opening our economy. Even though the threat of the virus is still there we still need our economy to recover so that businesses and jobs will reopen for our citizens), he said. –AAC

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