By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki and AFP
The University of the Philippines (UP) – Philippine General Hospital (PGH) will attempt to treat severely ill coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients by using the antibodies found in the blood of survivors.
In an interview with GMA News, UP-PGH Spokesperson Jonas del Rosario is appealing for blood donations from COVID-19 survivors. He explained that survivors are those who initially tested positive for the disease, got better, then eventually tested negative.
“Ang tawag sa kanila survivors. Nagtataglay ang kanilang mga dugo ng antibodies (They are called survivors. Their blood possesses antibodies),” he told Arnold Clavio of GMA News. “Gagamitin natin para ibigay naman sa mga pasyente na severely ill sa COVID-19 (We will use this and give to the patients who are severely ill with COVID-19),” he said.
The Center for Disease Control has defined antibodies as protein found in the blood that is produced in response to bacteria or viruses invading the body. Antibodies serve as a protection from the disease by binding these organisms and destroying them.
Del Rosario said that the use of antibodies as treatment is not a standard of care, since it is still in the “experimental stage.” He added that the antibodies should come from healthy patients who had mild cases of COVID-19.
While they would be appreciative of all donors, del Rosario said they would be very meticulous with the selection. “Susuriin namin kung talagang naka-recover na sila. Mga two weeks pa sila pinagagaling bago mag-qualify as donor (We will check if they have indeed recovered. Two weeks should have passed before they qualify as donors),” he said.
For those interested in becoming donors, they can call the UP – PGH hotline at 155-200 and ask how to donate blood.
“Everyone’s waiting for serologic testing, the whole world,” said France’s Health Minister Olivier Veran, which he said will show who has contracted COVID-19.
He said the global research community is focusing on ways of perfecting the tests, which measure viral antibodies in a person’s blood that signal immunity.
Veran said that mass production of the tests could start within weeks. “
It’s a huge factor, especially when we’re trying to reduce confinement,” he said.
The World Health Organization said that serologic tests were still being developed but were yet to be properly evaluated.
Current diagnostic tests, known as RT-PCR, are invasive and use genetic analysis to see if a person is actively infected.
Serologic testing, which only requires a drop of blood to conduct, focuses instead on finding virus antibodies, the presence of which indicates that an individual has had COVID-19 and is now likely immune.
There are two types of antibodies associated with the COVID-19 immune response: IgM, which the body produces in the early stages of viral response, and IgG, which arrive later on during infection.
The tests being developed can identify both antibodies, key hallmarks of a patient’s auto-immune response to the virus.
But serologic tests are the only way to know for sure what percentage of humanity has been infected with COVID-19, which will help inform a variety of current unknowns, not least mortality rates.
Antibody testing is so crucial because of the large proportion of people with COVID-19 infections who may not show symptoms but can still pass the virus on to others.
Once widely available, they could be used to determine who gets to return to work and exit the lockdown currently being experienced by billions around the world.
The Philippine government will join the global “Solidarity Trial” to help develop a potential treatment for COVID-19.
“Nais ko rin ipaalam sa inyo na tayo po ay sasali sa Solidarity Trial na ginagawa ng World Health Organization (WHO) para sa COVID-19 (I want to inform the public that we will join the WHO Solidarity Trial for COVID-19),” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.
The WHO said the Solidarity Trial is aimed at comparing the safety and effectiveness of different drugs or drug combinations against the dreaded disease.
“More than 45 countries are contributing to the trial, and more have expressed interest. The more countries who join the trial, the faster we will have results,” said WHO Director- General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Monday.
Duque said the country will be represented by Dr. Marissa Alejandria of the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, while Health Undersecretary Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire will serve as the DOH’s official liaison to the WHO.
WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr. Takeshi Kasai earlier said “there are as of today more than 50 candidate vaccines and several clinical trials for treatments are ongoing.”
“Some of those prototype vaccines are even moving into human trials. This is a remarkable speed and I hope that vaccine development would be as much fast as we want, but it will still take some more time,” he added. (with a report from Analou De Vera)