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Coronavirus: First successful trial of passive immunisation therapy reported in Sindh

Hematologist Dr Tahir Shamsi says first patient to recover from coronavirus by passive immunisation therapy sent home

By Web Desk
May 11, 2020
United Nations COVID-19 Response/Illustration/Angela Oyafuso and Suzy Sakano/via The News

KARACHI: Sindh on Sunday reported its first successful recovery from the passive immunisation therapy of a coronavirus patient. The treatment had been approved earlier in March.

"The first patient to recover from the coronavirus with the use of passive immunisation therapy has been sent home," the head of the National Institute of Blood Disease & Bone Marrow Transplantation (NIBD & BMT) and hematologist, Dr Tahir Shamsi, said.

Dr Shamsi explained that the patient was administered plasma on April 30 and completely recovered on May 8. The patient's second test of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, came out negative, he added.

More than 12 patients are currently being treated by the use of passive immunisation therapy, said the hematologist.

Sindh green-lights trial

On March 31, the government of Sindh had approved the use of passive immunisation therapy to treat coronavirus patients across the province. Supervised by Dr Shamsi, the technique was set to be presented to other provinces for approval before a detailed strategy could be implemented in the hospitals across Pakistan.

"Under this technique, blood plasma from a healthy person is extracted and injected into the blood of a patient suffering from the coronavirus," the hematologist had said.

"After the transfer, the injected plasma generates anti-bodies in the immune system of the patient suffering from the coronavirus. These anti-bodies eventually fight off the virus," he had added.

According to health experts, passive immunisation therapy is used either when there is a high risk of infection and insufficient time for the body to develop its own immune response or to reduce the symptoms of ongoing diseases. At present, there are no vaccines or proven therapies for the novel virus, which has already affected more than four million people across the globe.

Plasma used 'to create anti-bodies'

It has also caused over 280,000 deaths worldwide, with the United States becoming the most-affected country by the virus.

On April 2, Pakistani coronavirus survivor Yahya Jafri donated his plasma to doctors to help them fight the novel infection. "This virus will become history and our efforts will be remembered,” Jafri had said while addressing a press conference alongside hematologist Dr Saqib Ansari.

Jafri had noted that he was ready to help his country in any way and was grateful for his recovery from the illness.

Dr Ansari had told the media that Jafri was diagnosed with the coronavirus last month and had donated his plasma after recovering from the infection so that others could be cured.

“The FDA will use the plasma to create anti-bodies,” the hematologist had said, clarifying, however, that not every COVID-19 patient required plasma. He had added that the machine used to treat dengue virus patients also worked on those suffering from the coronavirus.

Treatment approved for two more hospitals

“We have to stop the spread, [carry out] treatment, and [end] panic in the society,” Dr Ansari had added.

The government of Sindh had on April 30 approved further enhancement of the passive immunisation treatment for the novel coronavirus, adding that two more hospitals apart from the NIBD — including Dr Ruth K. M. Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi and Liaquat University of Medical & Health Sciences (LUMHS) Hospital in Hyderabad — would work on it.

According to a notification from the Sindh Health Department, a four-member team of experts was to lead the effort in the medical facilities.