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

UNTV News   •   April 10, 2020   •   1134

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)

Senate panel to conduct hearing on timing of Cha-Cha talks amid coronavirus pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   January 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments is set to conduct a hearing this week to discuss the timing of efforts to push for Charter Change anew amid the coronavirus pandemic, panel chairperson Senator Francis Pangilinan said on Monday.

In a statement, Pangilinan said the hearing, which is scheduled on Wednesday, January 27, will consult representatives from sectors affected by the proposed amendments.

Among the resource persons who have confirmed their attendance to the hearing are 1987 Constitution Framers Florangel Rosario Braid, Atty. Christian Monsod, and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide.

Also attending the hearing are Priest Ranhilio Aquino, former Supreme Court Justice Vicente Mendoza, DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, and Department of Justice Chief State Counsel George Ortha II.

Pangilinan said the hearing will tackle procedural concerns and “prejudicial questions” that need to be considered relative to the proposed Charter change.

“Una, given Covid and ‘yung ating krisis sa ekonomiya, napapanahon ba mag-Charter Change? Pangalawa, kung napapanahon ang Charter change, ito ba ay dapat con-ass [constitutional assembly] o con-con [constitutional convention]? Tapos pangatlo, kung con-con, e ‘di maliwanag yung eleksyon, kailan?” he said.

“Kung con-ass naman, mayroon pang isang isyu na hanggang ngayon hindi pa nareresolba: Ito ba ay dapat voting jointly ang Senate at House. Ibig sabihin ay 300 plus senators and congressmen sabay boboto ng three-fourths vote? O three-fourths vote separately, ibig sabihin three-fourths vote ang Senate, at three-fourths vote ng House,” he added.

The hearing will discuss Senator Sherwin Gatchalian’s Resolution of Both Houses No. 1, Senators Francis Tolentino and Ronald Dela Rosa’s RBH No. 2, as well as Senator Richard Gordon’s Senate Joint Resolution No. 1.

QC orders stricter measures in quarantine hotels amid reports of COVID-19 UK variant in PH

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 25, 2021

QUEZON, Philippines—The Quezon City government said it will impose stricter measures in quarantine hotels amid reports that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) UK variant has taken root in several parts of the country.

QC Mayor Joy Belmonte said there is a need to double the city’s efforts in preventing the spread of the new variant. She said there will be stricter protocols in hotels serving as quarantine facilities for returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

“Now that the DOH confirmed the presence of the new strain in several places of the country, the more we need to double our efforts in preventing the spread of the virus,” she said.

Belmonte reiterated that returning OFWs should follow government-mandated quarantine period, especially if they came from countries with confirmed reports of the COVID-19 variant.

The Quezon City government will also intensify its inspection of hotels and other establishments to ensure health and safety protocols are followed.

Meanwhile, Belmonte reported that Quezon City currently has zero case of the Covid-19 variant after the city’s first index case already recovered. The male resident was already allowed to go home yesterday afternoon, a day after he tested negative for the virus. AAC

DFA Consular Office in General Santos City closed until Jan. 26

Marje Pelayo   •   January 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) informs the public that its Consular Office in General Santos City will be temporarily closed on Monday (January 25).

This is to give way to disinfection activities in its office premises and the implementation of other preventive measures to manage risks against coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The Consular Office will resume its regular operations on Tuesday (January 26).

Affected applicants with confirmed appointments who are unable to avail of consular services due to the suspension of operations must secure another appointment by emailing gensan.rco@dfa.gov.ph with the following information:

  • Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Original appointment date and time
  • Preferred date and time of new appointment

The preferred new appointment may be on any working day from Monday to Friday from January 26 to February 26 during the CO’s regular operation hours 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

Applicants that need emergency or urgent Consular services may contact CO General Santos by email at gensan.rco@dfa.gov.ph.

The DFA requests the public’s understanding and cooperation as we continue to battle against this pandemic.

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