A Promising Covid-19 Treatment Gets Fast Tracked

Epigraph:

Every human life is precious and sacred, saving one is like the saving of the whole of humanity. (Al Quran 5:32/33)

Source: John Hopkins University

Arturo Casadevall and collaborators at Johns Hopkins and beyond have worked around the clock to develop a convalescent serum therapy to treat COVID-19 using blood plasma from recovered patients. If early promising studies on the therapy done in China are confirmed by U.S. trials, thousands of survivors might soon line up to donate their antibody-rich plasma. “I absolutely think this could be the best treatment we have for the next few months,” Hopkins pathologist Aaron Tobian says.

Mindboggling.” That’s how Aaron Tobian, a pathologist and director of the Division of Transfusion Medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital, describes the speed of the spread of the COVID-19 virus—and Johns Hopkins’ lightning-fast response to the pandemic.

“When it started to hit the home front and there were no treatments, everybody started saying, ‘We need to act, and we need to act now,'” says Tobian, who has a joint appointment in the Department of Epidemiology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. “And that’s when people at Hopkins started coming together and said, ‘Let’s try to do something here.'”

That “something” is one step closer to reality. Under the leadership of immunologist Arturo Casadevall, Johns Hopkins has spearheaded the use of a convalescent serum therapy, a potential COVID-19 treatment—with an old pedigree. On March 24, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began allowing researchers to request emergency authorization for its use. Within three days hospitals in Houston and New York City started treatments, and now under a FDA “expanded access program” soon “a very large number” of U.S. hospitals will follow suit, according to Tobian.

On Friday, the FDA approved a clinical trial specifically for Johns Hopkins that will allow its researchers to further test the therapy as a means of preventing otherwise healthy people, notably front-line medical staff, from getting sick. FDA approval is pending for a second Hopkins clinical trial on patients who are slightly or moderately ill to see if the serum will keep them out of ICUs and help bring them back to health.

Coverage of how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting operations at JHU and how Hopkins experts and scientists are responding to the outbreak

In recent weeks, Casadevall has led a team of physicians and scientists from around the United States to establish a network of at least 40 hospitals and blood banks in 20 states that can begin collecting, isolating, and processing blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors. People who recover from an infection develop antibodies that circulate in the blood and can neutralize the pathogen. Researchers hope to use the technique to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients and boost the immune systems of health care providers and first responders. Currently there are no proven drug therapies or effective vaccines for treating the novel coronavirus.

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“We project that roughly 56 percent of our population – 25.5 million people – will be infected with the virus over an eight week period,” Governor Newsom of California wrote on 3/19/2020.

Categories: Health, Preventive Medicine, USA

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