Calling all COVID-19 recovered patients

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Calling all COVID-19 recovered patients

UHWI wants to do pilot study to find ways of treating disease

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
Senior staff reporter
hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, July 12, 2020

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THE University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) has issued a call for individuals who have recovered from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to be part of a pilot study aimed at finding ways to treat ill COVID-19 patients and reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with the disease.

The study will take the form of a randomised control trial and UHWI has established a registry to identify, qualify and collect convalescent plasma safely from recovered COVID-19 individuals. This plasma will then be used in some COVID-19 patients with severe disease to aid in their recovery.

People who have recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies — proteins the body uses to fight off infections — to the disease in their blood. The blood from people who have recovered is called convalescent plasma. Plasma is the liquid portion of the blood.

“We know that on average about 20 per cent of patients who get sick from SARS COVID 2 will have severe disease requiring admission to hospital and can result in lung injury and other organ failure. To balance that off we have had a lot of recovered patients and so the idea wasn't birth at the University Hospital but certainly internationally and with the background of other illnesses — more than 100 years of using convalescent plasma to treat other persons with viral infections,” Dr Gillian Wharfe, principal investigator of the study, said.

Dr Wharfe explained that the practice of collecting convalescent plasma comes from a background of recognising the role of the immune system in responding to viral infections and being essential to the recovery of patients with viral infections. She said this practice is informed by data from other viral infections as well as more recent data specifically related to COVID-19.

Further, Dr Wharfe explained that the goal of the antibodies is to detect the presence of a virus and destroy it to allow for quicker recovery from illness.

“The goal of the antibodies is to recognise the presence of the virus and destroy it or neutralise it, or make it more attractive to the immune system so that it is removed and this will then reduce the viral load that the sick patient has and allow quicker recovery from the infection,” Dr Wharfe said.

Moreover, the investigators in the clinical trial are seeking to attract 60 donors between ages 18 and 60 years old who were previously confirmed positive for COVID-19 by a laboratory test, and fully recovered from the virus and symptom free for at least 28 days to participate.

“Because it's a clinical trial, because it's research we need volunteers. So we have put out flyers to encourage people to come and donate. Our donors are no different to regular blood donors. The only difference is that they have had COVID-19 infection and have recovered from the COVID-19 infections. These are healthy people. The majority of our patients have been young persons. When you listen to the data put out by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, a lot of them are young people. We had the outbreak in the BPO sector — a lot of young females work there and therefore these are the persons who will fall within the category of persons who are healthy, who are young and who therefore are appropriate to select as blood donors. They undergo the same testing. We need to know their blood group, we need to ensure they don't have any of the other infections that are transmitted by blood. It is very much the same we would do if someone donated a unit of blood for you,” said Dr Wharfe.

But, expressions of interest in the study has been low.

“So far we have two volunteers. We haven't been having much buy-in despite a lot of attempts to contact people through the media. If we had a list, we could try and access that list but that could raise ethical issues as to why the information persons gave to the ministry is being shared elsewhere. So, we want to have flyers at job sites, places we know have had high levels of infections so people can see it and call in to find out what it is about. We have numbers on the flyers that people can call. We have e-mail addresses they can write to for further information and on the website there's a form they can complete and we get back to them,” Dr Wharfe said.

Individuals interested in participating in the study may call 876-977-2327 or 876-927-1621- 9 ext 2487. They may also e-mail plasma support@uhwi.gov.jm or visit the website at www.uhwi.gov.jm/covid19plasma

“If you have recovered from COVID-19 and you are interested in this study, reach out and speak with us. We may be able to allay some fears. It is strictly confidential and only people who are conducting the study have access to the information. You are assigned a study ID number and not a name. The information is kept separate in an encrypted password protected computer file. It's an important study. Some persons have done well and COVID-19 is behind them, but it is not behind those persons who are ill. There is no defined treatment for this infection. There is not yet a vaccine available for these patients. When you get the illness a vaccine is no longer useful, so we need to find ways we can treat people successfully to reduce not only death, but the severe clinical complications with the lung injury and the kidney injury and the clotting and strokes these patients can have. This is what their donation means to a patient who is ill with COVID-19.”


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