Canadian researchers will study whether the plasma of recovered patients can be used to treat COVID-19, in an April 9, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Researchers to study whether plasma of recovered patients can treat COVID-19

Plasma is the liquid portion of the blood that contains the antibodies that protect against illness

Researchers from across Canada will collaborate on a vast clinical trial to study whether the plasma of recovered patients can be used to treat COVID-19.

The study, the largest to date ever done on the subject, will include about 50 Canadian institutions, including 15 in Quebec.

“It’s a therapy to treat the illness,” said one of the lead researchers, Dr. Philippe Begin of Montreal’s CHU Ste-Justine hospital.

“We’re talking about passive immunizations, while with a vaccine we’re talking about active immunization.”

Passive immunization consists of transfusing plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 — called convalescent plasma — to patients in the early stages of the illness in order to provide protective antibodies and hopefully limit the severity of symptoms.

Plasma is the liquid portion of the blood that contains the antibodies that protect against illness.

Begin cited the proverb, “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” Teaching someone to fish, he said, would be the equivalent of a vaccine that prompts the body to make its own antibodies.

But with no vaccine available, convalescent plasma is the best alternative.

ALSO READ: ‘Tremendous’ response from blood donors has supply keeping pace with demand

“But now we don’t have time, because we don’t yet know how to fish, so we can’t really teach it,” he said. “So the idea is that we just give the antibodies created by someone else.”

The approach was used before the development of vaccines to combat epidemics, and it’s not the first time the idea of using convalescent plasma has been raised in the fight against COVID-19. But thus far, the evidence in favour remains largely anecdotal and of poor scientific quality.

The study will include researchers from the Universite de Montreal, the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, Hema-Quebec, McMaster University, and Sunnybrook and SickKids hospitals in Toronto, among others.

Begin admitted researchers are running “a little blind” when it comes to the use of plasma.

“We don’t have a ton of studies that tell us, it takes this kind of antibody, or this amount of plasma,” he said.

The best way to get answers is to assemble as much data as possible, as quickly as possible, he said.

“We want to go fast, and the best way to go fast is have several of us following the same protocol to put all the data together,” he said.

“We have colleagues in other countries who are interested and with whom we share our protocols.”

Plasma will be collected about a month after a patient recovers, when antibody levels are at their highest. COVID-19 was first reported in Quebec in late February, and the number of potential donors in the province remains low, although it’s growing.

Therefore, the researchers have decided the convalescent plasma will be reserved for those who are suffering from the illness, although it’s not out of the question that it could be offered later to at-risk groups, such as health-care workers, as a preventive measure.

The study is expected to last about three months and involve more than 1,000 patients.

Jean-Benoit Legault, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Abbotsford International Airshow opening 50-year-old time capsule

Bronze time capsule was put together to commemorate AIA as Canada’s National Airshow

Rainfall records fell in deluge Saturday across the Fraser Valley

The steady rain broke the May 30 record in Chilliwack for rain with one day total of 31.7 mm

Abbotsford’s UFV gym now without a sponsor

Partnership with Envision Financial ends, school seeking new organizations to partner with

Road washout affecting section of Highway No. 3 near Manning Park

Road maintenance crews are on the scene, with an almost two kilometre long stretch impacted

CBC Bearcats hire Rebecca Garner as women’s volleyball head coach

Abbotsford-based team hires former Bearcat, Briercrest star to lead program

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

New platform allows readers to make a one-time or ongoing donation to support local journalism

Love flourishes at Peace Arch Park, but COVID-19 concerns loom

South Surrey park becomes only place for international couples to meet

UPDATE: B.C.’s Central Kootenay issues evacuation orders for hundreds of residents due to flooding

An evacuation alert covers all areas except the Cities of Castelgar and Nelson

PHOTOS: Thousands gather at Vancouver Art Gallery to protest racism

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Number of students returning is a wild card as B.C. schools reopen Monday

A common model will see other teachers work four days a week in class then the fifth remotely,

Human Rights Tribunal denies church’s request to toss out White Rock Pride Society’s complaint

Star of the Sea and White Rock Pride Society to go to Human Rights Tribunal hearing

Most Read