Vietnam mulls plasma use for critically ill Covid-19 patients

By Chi Le, Le Nga   April 10, 2020 | 12:21 am PT
Vietnam mulls plasma use for critically ill Covid-19 patients
A medical staff takes samples for Covid-19 at a quick testing station in Hanoi's Dong Da District, March 31, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.
Vietnamese experts in hematology and infectious diseases are studying the use of plasma from recovered Covid-19 patients to treat those in critical condition.  

The Health Ministry has assigned the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases, the National Institute of Hematology and Blood Transfusion and the system of hematology specialty hospitals to try extracting plasma from those who have recovered from Covid-19 infections to treat critically ill novel coronavirus patients under the regimen recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).  

Dr. Bach Quoc Khanh, head of the blood transfusion institute, said using plasma from recovered patients can be a method to treat serious patients whose body has a high concentration of virus that shows no signs of decreasing after treatment by normal methods.

The plasma of patients having recovered contains antibodies in their blood that fight infections, and when transmitted into the body of the critically ill patient, these may help boost his or her immunity and help kill the virus.

"This method has a few side effects," Khanh said, without elaborating. He said the extracted plasma will be a special blood product "requiring special indications." 

Plasma treatment is a method that has not yet used in Vietnam, therefore, leading medical experts are carefully studying and evaluating it.

"It cannot be done right now, we need a few more days to read all documents, instructions and references to make specific plans," Khanh said.

The extraction of plasma is not difficult because it only requires machinery and equipment similar to the extraction of other blood samples, Khanh said, adding that his institute is sufficiently equipped to do it.

"We will use plasma treatment in case there are a high number of critically ill patients," said Dr. Pham Ngoc Thach, director of the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases.

Two South Koreans recovered from their Covid-19 infection after plasma treatment on April 7, becoming the first cases of its kind in South Korea. There is no vaccine and proven treatment for the Covid-19 yet.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is also considering the use of plasma treatment for severely ill patients, with the country leading the world in the number of infections at 468,895, and more than 16,697 deaths recorded so far.  

Vietnam has not recorded any Covid-19 case since Thursday evening, keeping the tally at 255. 135 have been discharged. 

To date, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected 210 countries and territories, claiming the lives of more than 95,800 people.

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