Critically ill coronavirus patients can now be treated with survivors' blood

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it will make it easier for an experimental plasma to be tried on patients with COVID-19

Health officials in China and NY believe that the treatment, which involves harvesting virus-fighting antibodies from the blood of recovered patients, could be used to combat the deadly virus at the center of a global pandemic.

The method has been used for decades to treat infectious diseases, with the goal of transferring newly acquired immunity from one person to another.

"The approach definitely has merit, and what's remarkable about it is it's not a new idea; it's been with us for a good hundred years or longer", said Dr. Jeffrey Henderson, an associate professor of medicine and molecular microbiology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The FDA on Tuesday approved use of blood plasma from people who have survived COVID-19 to treat the most serious cases of the disease until a vaccine or other treatment can be developed.

The method - essentially harvesting virus-fighting antibodies from the blood of previously infected patients - was associated with milder symptoms and shorter hospital stays for some patients during the 2002 SARS outbreak. Well, doctors in NY will soon test an experimental therapy for COVID-19 that is over a century old, and uses blood from people who recover from the disease. For now, the experimental treatment will be reserved for patients who are in dire condition and at risk of death.

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Most requests will receive a response from the FDA within four to eight hours, according to the agency's statement.

If the treatment does prove effective, experts have suggested it could be used proactively to give healthcare workers protection from the virus.

"Given the public health emergency that the expanding COVID-19 outbreak presents, while clinical trials are being conducted, FDA is facilitating access to COVID-19 convalescent plasma for use in patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections", the FDA said. Several pre-clinical and clinical trials around the use of plasma from sufferers who've recovered are underway; however, there are some promising signs that convalescent plasma may undoubted;y be effective against SARS-CoV-2.

"It's only a trial", Cuomo said Monday.

On March 23, the NY governor, Andrew Cuomo, said that "We think it shows promise" using convalescent plasma to help with the state's hospitalization response to the outbreak.

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