A group of pharmaceutical companies is working together to ask recovered COVID-19 patients to donate plasma. Microsoft has partnered with the group to create a “bot” to help this process. Convalescent plasma strategies have many benefits, often providing some relief for sufferers. However, the process is complex, and doctors have mixed opinions on its efficacy.
Microsoft’s contribution, the “plasmabot,” is a chat bot that can help people understand if they’re good candidates for donation. The bot can also explain the plasma-giving process and help direct candidates to sites where they can give plasma. Microsoft hopes to help people get important info about donating plasma even from their computer or cellular phone.
The idea behind convalescent plasma transfers is that they can confer valuable antibodies to recipients. The FDA has not okayed the use of convalescent plasma in COVID patients as of yet. However, investigational studies have been green-lit. Direct blood transfusions of recovered patients is a decades-old method for fighting novel viruses.
Another option for healthcare professionals is to use the antibodies in collected plasma to create medication. The bodies of people who survive infectious diseases caused by antigens like viruses produce proteins called antibodies that fight them off. This is the basis of how the immune system functions. Researchers could synthesize medicine using these same proteins as a treatment for the illness.
Why This Is so Important
Viruses can mutate quickly and spread widely. Coronaviruses, in particular, need to be constantly evolving to remain a threat to humans. Consider the flu, which is also caused by a coronavirus: it’s constantly shifting in composition, requiring vaccines to be distributed every year. The COVID-19 causing virus could be similar, mutating quickly.
If it is, then early collection of plasma will be vital. The body normally only contains antibodies to viruses like the novel coronavirus for a few months. The sooner medical agencies collect plasma of recovered patients, the more good they can do in fighting the virus off. Effective treatments for COVID could dramatically reduce the demand for ICU beds and other supplies.
A Race for Health
Medical agencies and hospitals are racing the virus to create apt countermeasures. Such measures, like effective treatments for the symptoms of the disease and a vaccine for the virus, could still be months away.
Meanwhile, protesters in the US are growing frustrated with lockdown measures meant to curb the spread of the disease. Healthcare agencies are trying to keep up with ICU bed demand while also scrambling to create effective medication for the disease.