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

UNTV News   •   April 10, 2020   •   1004

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)

Quezon City mayor cancels city hall parties, to donate funds

Robie de Guzman   •   September 29, 2020

Parties for all offices under the Quezon City government during the holidays will no longer be held this year amid the continuing novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte said Tuesday.

A statement released on Tuesday said Belmonte has issued a memorandum directing all offices under the city hall to cancel parties scheduled in December and instead ordered them to donate the funds to underprivileged groups.

“The money that would have been spent on office Christmas parties would do more good as donations to the underprivileged during this extraordinarily difficult time in our nation’s history,” Belmonte said in a statement.

The local chief executive stressed that “it would be inappropriate for offices of the city government to hold customary Christmas parties while many of its citizens are experiencing hardships due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.”

Instead of holding parties, she urged city hall employees to adopt an underprivileged sector— such as the urban poor, displaced workers, jeepney drivers, street vendors, indigent children, and poor senior citizens— and to modestly celebrate the season in their homes.

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Batanes records first COVID-19 case

Robie de Guzman   •   September 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The province of Batanes on Tuesday said it has recorded its first case of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) since the start of the pandemic early this year.

According to Batanes Governor Marilou Cayco, the province reported its first COVID-19 case after a 29-year old resident who returned on Sept. 22 tested positive for the virus.

He has a travel history in Santa Rosa, Laguna. He returned to the province on board a Philippine Air Force plane with 18 others.

Cayco said the patient is asymptomatic and currently under isolation and monitoring of the provincial COVID-19 task force.

She added that all 18 individuals who had close contact with the patient have been subjected to swab test and are now strictly being monitored.

Batanes is currently under a modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) but the local government will recommend to place the province under a two-week GCQ to curb the spread of coronavirus disease.

Cayco said outpost checkpoints will also be set up in all municipalities to monitor and limit the movement of people.

Airport operations and commercial flights to and from the province will also be suspended.

“Medivac lang ang pwedeng pumunta dito in some emergency cases. Pero yung commercial flights pina-stop muna namin,” she said.

The local government reminds residents to follow health protocols such as the wearing of face masks and face shields and observe physical distancing. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dan Gersalia)

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DOH allows private companies to implement lockdown

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 29, 2020

The Department of Health (DOH) will allow private companies to implement lockdown in their offices or health care facilities to prevent coronavirus disease (COVID-19) exposure.

DOH Spokesperson Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire said aside from the minimum health protocols, private companies should also consider the mental health of their employees if they will implement a lockdown.

For example may mga ibang ospital (For example, there are hospitals) that would rather have their employees stay with them, they have their dormitory. Wala munang uuwi dito muna kasi kapag umuwi kayo sa community you go back at nadadala niyo ang mga impeksyon dito (No one will go home yet because, once you go home to your community and you come back, you might bring the infection here), she said.

According to the Health Department, the duration of the lockdown will depend on the agreement between the company and its employees. She also reminded employees that they can also decline being put into lockdown.

Hindi naman dapat pumayag din ang isang employee kung iyan ay labag sa kaniya. Mayroon naman silang ganoong karapatan kailangan lang po na naipapaliwang ng maayos (Employees don’t need to agree if they don’t want to. They have the right to do so. Things must be explained properly),Vergeire added.

The health official also reminded private companies to make sure that their employees understand the reason behind the lockdown, taking into account the difficulty of being away from their families especially during the pandemic.

Vergeire also said employees should also be able to talk to experts with regards to their mental health.

“It is okay not to be okay especially at this time during our situation in the pandemic. Okay lang po iyan lahat tayo nakakaramdam ng ganiyan (That’s okay, we all feel that). We just have to have that coping mechanism,” she said. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

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