Convalescent plasma has no clinical benefit for COVID-19 patients, according to a new study.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, assessed 464 COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals in India between April and July.
They were split into two groups – one got two transfusions of convalescent plasma 24 hours apart and best standard care. The other group received best standard care only.
Convalescent plasma treatment infuses people who are suffering with blood plasma from someone who has already recovered in the hope it will help the new patient fight off the disease.
After seven days, the group who received the plasma showed an improvement in symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue, leading to higher rates of “negative conversion” – a sign that the virus is being neutralised by antibodies.
But it did not cut the number of deaths or the progression to severe disease within 28 days, with the study saying it showed “no net clinical benefit to patients”.
Ian Jones, a professor of virology, also at Reading University, said: “The poor performance of convalescent plasma in this trial is disappointing but not entirely surprising.
“We still do not have enough treatments for the early stage of disease to prevent severe disease and until this becomes an option, avoiding being infected with the virus remains the key message.”
Mr Jones added that plasma is more likely to be effective if it is given to a patient shortly after they catch the virus and that future trials should focus on this.
Reading University cellular microbiology expert Simon Clarke said: “The … trial was able to show a small effect on the rate at which patients were able rid themselves of the virus, but this was not enough to improve their recovery from the disease.
“In simple terms, there were no clinical benefits to the patients.”
The study’s findings will be bad news for the US and India, which have both authorised convalescent plasma for emergency use.
Earlier in October it was reported that around 220 patients in the UK were treated in September as part of clinical trials of plasma, which began in May.
Also in October, a Canadian study revealed that COVID-19 antibodies in blood plasma donations appear to drop within months.
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