BUENOS AIRES – Argentina has ‘high expectation’ that its ongoing clinical trial, in which people who have recovered from COVID-19 donate their blood plasma for the treatment of other patients, will be successful.
“Beyond the fact that there are still no communications to ensure the safety and efficacy of this type of treatment, the preliminary studies are very encouraging,” said Arnaldo Medina, secretary of health quality of the Argentine government in a meeting with foreign media on Thursday at the Hospital El Cruce in the Buenos Aires provincial city of Florencio Varela.
Hospital El Cruce is one of the medical centers willing to develop an experimental method aimed at gathering blood plasma donations from recovered patients and using it as a treatment, as research suggests that people who contracted the coronavirus generate an antibody that may be favorable for patients who are still dealing with the infection.
The coordinator of the Directorate of Blood and Transfunctional Medicine, Daniel Fontana, said that the expectation of both the private and public centers carrying out the trials is that in July there will be “at least partial results that allow us to see the pros and cons that plasma transfusion may have.”
The trial, which is also being carried out by other countries, is a collaboration of different medical institutions in Argentina. It aims to see how the plasma transfusion in a sick patient, who is yet to be admitted to intensive care, prevents the progression of respiratory pathology.
“We are still in the initial stages, and we just began with the first patients. We expect (to carry out the trial on) a large number of patients. We are starting the marketing first to reach convalescent patients to donate, and the first volunteers are appearing,” Medina said.
In the medium term, Argentina’s plan also foresees the development of a medicine with the plasma of those recovered, called hyperimmune globulin, made by the Blood Products Laboratory of Cordoba.
The secretary also said Argentina has “high expectation” that the use of plasma will come to fruition and be part of a “comprehensive solution for this disease.”
Those to wish to donate their plasma need to contact the hospitals where they will undergo an interview and present their previous blood reports. They also need to have been discharged from hospital for at least for 14 days, have twice tested negative for the virus and comply with all the recommendations of a regular donor.
Having recovered from a mild coronavirus infection that kept her isolated for several weeks, young Argentine biochemist Camila Corbatta, a resident at Hospital El Cruce, decided to join the trial.
“For me it is a very good opportunity because it is a little while that we have to be plugged into the machine and we can give a possibility to people who are having a bad time,” she said According to Corbatta, her case began with a fever, but was mild, and she spent days in mandatory isolation.
“When the symptoms disappeared, they tested me again. They did two consecutive… tests on me which came out negative so they discharged me,” she said, convinced that although “nothing bad” happened to her, there are people who are suffering “If this serves to relieve another, it is worth it for me,” Corbatta said, and encouraged people to donate.
The blood plasma donation for COVID-19 treatment is made through a procedure called plasmapheresis, by which the plasma, or liquid part of the blood, is separated from the blood cells. After extracting up to 600 milliliters of plasma from the blood, the red blood cells, platelets and excess plasma is reintroduced back to the donor.
The plasma can be extracted at the maximum of 600 milliliters each time and this amount accounts for up to three doses of blood plasma.
“In Argentina it has not been seen to have had any adverse effects so far and the data is being gathered to see to what extent it has been effective,” said Oscar Torres, president of the Argentine Association of Hemotherapy, Immunohematology and Cell Therapy.
Donors can donate up to four times a month.
The total number of confirmed cases in Argentina is 6,879, of which 344 have died.