Could a passive immunization (PI) offer instant, short-term fortification against infectious agents? This could be an answer worth exploring as an interim treatment option while the vaccine development continues as reported in the International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine. Researchers from The Hashemite University suggest the so-called convalescent plasma may represent an intriguing treatment option.
The research team includes Foad Alzoughool, PhD, and his co-author, Lo’ai Alangreh, PhD, both with the university’s Department of Laboratory Medical Sciences, Faculty or Applied Medical Sciences at the Hashemite University in Jordan. The team has studied the application of PI in previous pandemics and conclude that this approach is a potential solution to address the immediate health threat of COVID-19.
The team reports that after exposure to a viral infection, an individual’s body creates antibodies to fight off the virus. These antibodies in the blood of a recovered patient can be collected as convalescent plasma and transferred to the blood of a newly infected patient where it can neutralize the pathogen, eliminate it from the blood stream, and boost immunity. While PI does not provide long-term protection against the virus, it can reduce the aggressiveness and mortality of an infection.
Examples of PI Use
The use of PI immunization dates back to the beginning of the twentieth century during the Spanish flu epidemic, when patients who received convalescent plasma serum had lower mortality rates than others. Experimental usage of PI during outbreaks of Ebola virus, chikungunya virus, and the H1N1 flu also shows the potential of using PI in the prevention and treatment of viral infections.
Evidence of the Potential
There is evidence as well of the effectiveness of the PI technique in the SARS-CoV epidemic in Guangdong, China and the MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia, particularly if it is introduced soon after symptom onset. In one report, patients who received PI had a significantly shorter hospital stay and lower mortality than other groups. In another, patients who received convalescent plasma before day 14 of illness had a higher discharge rate. Healthcare workers who were infected with SARS-CoV and failed to respond to treatment survived after transfusion with convalescent plasma.
Dr. Alanagreh reported, “If you are looking for COVID-19 treatment, you will find it in the blood of survivors.” Given there is no vaccine available, the researcher suggested, perhaps “PI might help in slowing down the deadly virus and save lives, particularly for the elderly and patients with pre-existing conditions.” Of course in the United States, there is a growing body of evidence that ethnic minorities with co-existing health issues could face a graver risks—such as African American males.
Afterall, with over 1.5 million that have already recovered from the disease, many of them would be willing to donate plasma to help slow down the pandemic. Dr. Alzoughool and Dr. Alanagreh noted, importantly, that practicing this method now will help health systems be prepared in case a second wave of disease occurs.
The Hashemite University
Based in Jordan, this Jordanian state-run university was established in 1995. With extensive research programs, the Faculty of Medicine was established in accordance with government policies driven by His Royal Majesty King Abdullah.
Foad Alzoughool, PhD, Department of Laboratory Medical Sciences, Faculty or Applied Medical Sciences
Lo’ai Alangreh, PhD, Department of Laboratory Medical Sciences, Faculty or Applied Medical Sciences