U.S. researchers have filed an investigational new drug application, which, if approved, would pave the way for a clinical trial on using antibodies from the blood of recovered patients to treat people who are seriously ill due to COVID-19.
The plan is to ask patients who recover from COVID-19 to donate their blood, from which plasma would be isolated. After screening for toxins and viruses, the plasma would be transfused into people ill with or at high risk of COVID-19, according to a news release posted on the website of Washington University in St. Louis on Monday. “This is something that can be done very quickly, much faster than drug development, because it basically involves donating and transfusing plasma,” said Jeffrey P. Henderson, an associate professor of medicine and of molecular microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “As soon as we have individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 walking around, we have potential donors, and we can use the blood bank system to obtain plasma and distribute it to the patients who need it.”
The concept is simple, but the execution is more complicated. The scientists still need to determine how much antibody is in the blood of recovered patients, and how much antibody needs to be given to effectively treat or prevent COVID-19. The procedure for isolating plasma is a long-established technology that can be performed using equipment normally found in blood-banking facilities, and receiving plasma from these donors is as safe as any other plasma transfusion, Henderson said. “Giving serum from newly recovered patients is a stone-age approach, but historically it has worked,” said Henderson. “This is how we used to prevent and treat viral infections like measles, mumps, polio and influenza, but once vaccines were developed, the technique understandably fell out of favor and many people forgot about it. Until we have specific drugs and vaccines for COVID-19, this approach could save lives.” The investigational new drug application to the Food and Drug Administration was filed last week. If approved, the scientists plan to move rapidly to a clinical trial.