It’s the latest development in the effort to use a 19th century treatment to help 21st century patients.
The contract with the DoD’s Joint Acquisition Task Force is to develop a new convalescent blood plasma process that makes more serum-derived products, and faster.
President Donald Trump and US health leaders have done a full court press to encourage people who survived Covid-19 to donate plasma to help those who are sick.
Two weeks ago, on a tour of the Red Cross, Trump implored people to volunteer to donate plasma “as soon as you can.”
“We have a lot of people that would heal, would get better. As soon as you can, please,” Trump said.
A Victorian solution to a modern problem?
Since the Victorian era, doctors have used this treatment to fight severe cases of the flu. The treatment has also shown success with two other deadly coronaviruses – MERS and SARS. Yet it will take studies to prove that it works to treat Covid-19. Absent other treatments, doctors have opted to use the treatment as it was still being studied.
Doctors try the old treatment
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit New York City hard in March, doctors desperate to save patients weren’t sure what might help. Plasma from recovered Covid-19 patients showed some early promise. For professionals used to relying on scientific evidence and established facts, there was — and still is — little to work with.
“We probably changed what we were doing on a daily basis.”
To see what worked, Bouvier and team did a retrospective analysis on data collected from 39 patients.
Even in that small group, convalescent plasma stood out.
“We don’t have definitive answers yet, but we are on the way to getting definitive answers and, I would say, that the evidence, while imperfect, is promising,” Bouvier said.
Convalescent plasma, Woodcock said, is an option that can be “feasible fairly quickly.” Woodcock, said it’s a treatment the government is trying to accelerate, even before the government knows if it works.
Early results in China
Early on, a handful of small studies in China looked promising.
Trying the treatment in the US
Among 25 hospitalized patients with Covid-19, seven days after the convalescent plasma treatment, nine showed some improvement and seven were discharged from the hospital. By day 14, 19 had improved and 11 were discharged. There were no safety issues.
Still, it’s not clear if the treatment was the reason these patients improved; the study results would need to be reproduced in a larger group of patients.
Read More: Can convalescent plasma treat coronavirus?