MANILA -- The Philippine General Hospital (PGH) on Thursday appealed for more recovered patients to donate their blood plasma for an experimental but promising “treatment of last resort” for COVID-19.
At least 60 patients volunteered but only 19 actually donated blood for the convalescent plasma therapy following a strict screening process, said Dr. Jonas Del Rosario, the hospital’s spokesman.
Anti-bodies harnessed from blood plasma, the liquid part of the blood which was extracted from these patients, were later infused in 9 patients, 6 of whom were now either stable or recovering from the respiratory disease, he said.
“We take advantage of those anti-bodies, which, we believe, would neutralize the organism,” he told an online press conference.
At least 693 patients have recovered from the disease in the Philippines, where the death toll was at 446 as of Wednesday.
This means that there are more prospective donors that could help those, who are still sick, defeat the virus through passive immunization.
Del Rosario acknowledged that many recovered patients were discouraged from coming forward because of the “fear and anxiety of being discriminated.” He cited cases where donors asked the PGH to protect their identities.
“They now have an opportunity to rise above the stigma of the disease and be a hero by giving the plasma and hopefully, be able to extend the life of someone who’s battling the disease,” he said.
“They have the gift of life in their blood.”
The PGH has made convalescent plasma therapy available to at least 6 severely or critically ill COVID-19 patients as scientists worldwide continue to develop a cure and a vaccine for the disease.
Three other patients from 2 hospitals received blood plasma from donors who had gone to the PGH.
Of the 6 PGH patients, 1 is now out of intensive care while 3 were “stable and improving.” Two others succumbed to COVID-19.
“There’s no guarantee because in effect, these patients are critically ill. Some of them are really using this plasma therapy as a treatment of last resort,” he said.
The treatment requires consent from patients under the category of “compassionate use.” Plasma is then infused within 21 days from the onset of COVID-19
PGH requires at least 2 weeks of full recovery from donors, as shown by a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, the recognized gold standard diagnostic.
They have to weigh at least 50 kilograms and preferably below 60 years ago and without pre-existing medical conditions such as hypertension or diabetes.
“It’s not only enough that you want top donate, but you have to be fit to donate,” said Del Rosario.
If clinical trials later prove that the blood plasma treatment to be efficacious, it could be given to patients with a moderate case of COVID1-9, including those who show no symptoms , he said.
Recovered patients who want to donate blood plasma may call the PGH hotline (155-200) and 09178053207.