Abu Dhabi: A 29-year-old Emirati man who recovered from the coronavirus has become the first person in the UAE to donate plasma to other patients for treatment purposes.
The treatment, known as convalescent plasma therapy, was announced as a possible intervention for patients with COVID-19 whose condition is moderate to severely unwell. It is being applied at the Shaikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), Abu Dhabi’s premier public healthcare facility.
“SKMC began plasma treatment this week, as a 29-year-old Emirati young man donated blood plasma after recovering from coronavirus. He then donated plasma intravenously to one of the patients infected with the virus. We are still waiting for the results of this treatment and we are optimistic that it will be promising as we expect the patient’s condition to improve soon,” said Dr Fatima Al Kaabi, consultant and head of hematology and oncology at the SKMC.
The therapy is however not applicable for all patients, the doctor clarified. These include that the patient should be between the ages of 16 and 75 years old, that his or her condition be moderate to severe, and that he not suffer from any conditions that make the therapy hazardous.
“And one of the most important criteria for choosing the recipient is that the patient’s blood group match with the donor’s,” Dr Al Kaabi said.
Convalescent plasma therapy has been proposed as one of the therapies against COVID-19, and is a form of immunotherapy to help patients fight infectious diseases. It was used successfully to treat patients during other epidemics, including during the outbreak of SARS, MERS and H1N1.
On Saturday, Dr Farida Al Hosani, official spokesperson for the UAE health sector, announced that convalescent plasma therapy is now being used in the UAE under clinical trials. This is in addition to the administration of anti-virals and other drugs.
Plasma itself is the clear, liquid portion of blood, which also contains red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and other cellular components. It contains, water, salts, enzymes, proteins, and antibodies against infections a patient has recovered from. These antibodies form 14 to 21 days after recovery.
The United States Food and Drug Administration has given convalescent plasma therapy the status of an experimental therapy against COVID-19, and doctors around the world have reported that 40 to 50 per cent of patients who are treated with it show good and promising outcomes.
Dr Heba Al Humaidan, consultant and acting head of medical laboratories at SKMC, said convalescent plasma therapy helps protect damage to vital organs like the heart, lungs and kidneys.
The plasma donation is conducted at the Abu Dhabi Blood Bank using a plasmapheresis machine, much like a normal blood donation procedure. Plasma extracted from one patient is usually sufficient to treat two patients.
“In the absence of a drug or vaccine against this rapidly spreading virus, we decided to expedite the use of plasma therapy to save those in critical situations due to the virus,” said Dr. Maryam Butti Al Mazrouei, executive director at SKMC.
“All our efforts at the present time are focused on fighting the disease, and protecting the state and those in it. We are doing our best to implement any promising treatment with positive results,” she added.