It contains antibodies that doctors want to use to treat people who are still fighting the infection.
The Japanese pharmaceutical company Takeda hopes to deliver the world's first drug treatment for COVID-19 using the blood plasma of coronavirus survivors already fully recovered from respiratory disease.
"These are patients who have a healthy immune system", he told the Wall Street Journal Chris Morabito, responsible for Takeda's plasma medicine research and development. “They recovered. They generated the antibodies. These are permanent and we want them. We want to use them as a drug. "
How can coronavirus survivors' blood plasma help?
When an antigen (a bacterium or a virus, such as SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that scares everyone) enters the body for the first time, the immune system responds by producing an antibody, a protein designed to bind to that specific antigen. This allows other cells of the immune system to destroy the intruder.
After the body has completely cleared the antigen, the antibodies remain in the body. If the specific antigen invades again, the immune system can react to it even more quickly: it doesn't have to go through the antibody production process from scratch.
Takeda's therapy may work as well as vaccines, antivirals, and other treatments.
Antibodies are found in blood plasma, the liquid part of the blood. More than a century ago, during the Spanish flu pandemic, researchers realized that injecting plasma from someone who had recovered from the flu improved the likelihood that a person with a severe case would survive.
Takeda has been developing plasma-based products for over 75 years and on March 4th announced plans to test whether doctors could use its existing products to treat patients with COVID-19.
He also said he plans to start developing Tak-xnumx, a new plasma-based therapy designed specifically to address the new coronavirus.
As a result, the Japanese company is now trying to source blood plasma from coronavirus survivors and is discussing how best to accelerate the development of TAK-888 with health officials in the United States, Asia and Europe.
Coronavirus, we only win together
Even if Takeda succeeds in developing TAK-888, however, it is unlikely it will solve the COVID-19 outbreak on its own.
First, there is a problem of scale. A blood plasma donation from a coronavirus survivor would likely produce only enough treatment for a patient. It is therefore possible that Takeda will have to use plasma from different donors for each patient.
"We are not seeing this as a therapy that everyone could do"Kim said. "It would only be addressed to patients who have a serious illness."
Until someone develops a vaccine or drug treatment for COVID-19, there isn't much to do aside from staying home. Most doctors can do is provide patients with supportive care and hope their bodies are able to fight off the infection.
Thankfully, more than 35 other companies are trying their hand at developing COVID-19 treatments simultaneously. Takeda's approach could work in parallel with vaccines, antivirals and other treatments to end this plague.