Vietnam mulls stem cells, plasma for Covid-19 treatment

By Chi Le   September 21, 2021 | 12:59 am PT
Vietnam mulls stem cells, plasma for Covid-19 treatment
Doctors take care of a Covid-19 patient at an intensive care unit in HCMC's Thu Duc City, Sept. 13, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
The Health Ministry will study two methods to treat Covid-19 patients using stem cells and plasma as proposed by a local scientist.

As requested Monday by Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, who is leading the National Steering Committee on Covid-19 Prevention and Control, the Ministry of Health will consider umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cell transplantation for Covid-19 patients showing signs of respiratory failure, while providing the plasma of those who beat the coronavirus to critical patients.

Both methods were proposed earlier to the PM by Professor Nguyen Thanh Liem, a leading pediatric endoscopic surgeon and director of the Vinmec Research Institute for Stem Cell and Gene Technology.

The practice of stem cell infusion "has the ability to raise survival rates" 2.5 times in Covid-19 patients, compared to the non-transfusion group, said Liem, who has pioneered stem cell therapies for conditions such as cerebral palsy and autism in Vietnam.

Vietnam has mastered the technology of producing mesenchymal stem cells in large quantities. If researched and implemented, it would be a promising method to reduce mortality, he said.

A study by Romina Libster and her colleagues published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine early this year showed plasma transfusion of recovered patients helps reduce the rate of respiratory failure and thus contributes to reducing mortality among Covid-19 patients.

"The two points that should be emphasized in this study is that they administered the plasma to Covid-19 patients within 72 hours after the onset of mild symptoms and that they only used plasma with high SARS-CoV-2 antibody titers," said Liem.

Patients mentioned in the study are all above 65 and suffer chronic diseases, with none having suffered any serious side effects from the treatment method.

Liem noted the principle of collecting plasma from donors is similar to blood donation.

This method is low cost and easy to implement.

Therefore, he proposed the Health Ministry directs the Ho Chi Minh City Blood Transfusion Hematology Hospital and National Institute of Hematology - Blood Transfusion to soon establish a plasma bank with anti-viral antibodies for high-risk patients.

In Vietnam, the method of plasma transfusion to treat Covid-19 patients has been implemented by the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases since August. However, just a few Covid-19 patients have been treated with this method.

So far in the fourth wave, which hit Vietnam in late April and has by far been the most challenging the nation has faced, almost 692,000 community infections have been recorded and 17,270 deaths.

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