Monday, August 24, 2020

WHO cautious on COVID-19 plasma as U.S. issues emergency authorization

FILE PHOTO: Convalescent plasma from a recovered coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patient is seen at the Central Seattle Donor Center of Bloodworks Northwest during the outbreak in Seattle, Washington, U.S. April 17, 2020. The plasma from recovered patients will be used in an experimental treatment study for current coronavirus patients. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo

By John Miller

(Reuters) - The World Health Organization on Monday was cautious about endorsing the use of recovered COVID-19 patients’ plasma to treat those who are ill, saying evidence it works remains “low quality” even as the United States issued emergency authorization for such therapies.

So-called convalescent plasma, which has long been used to treat diseases, has emerged as the latest political flashpoint in the race to find therapies for COVID-19.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) on Sunday authorized its use after President Donald Trump blamed the agency for impeding the roll-out of vaccines and therapeutics for political reasons.

The technique involves taking antibody-rich plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 and giving it to those who are suffering from severe active infections in hopes they will recover more quickly.

Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist, said only a few clinical trials of convalescent plasma have produced results, and the evidence, at least so far, has not been convincing enough to endorse it beyond use as an experimental therapy. While a few trials have showed some benefit, she said, they have been small and their data, so far, inconclusive.  Read more >>