The Citizen (KZN)

Egypt tries plasma cure for Covid-19

- Cairo

– Mohamed Fathi, an Egyptian man who has recovered from Covid-19, winced as he watched tubes running down his arm to donate blood plasma, but insisted: “If I can help just one person, that’s a very good thing”.

The 25-year-old land surveyor from Cairo caught the disease in May, on the eve of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival, becoming one of the almost 100 000 reported cases in Egypt, where more than 5 000 people have died of Covid-19.

“Losing the sense of taste was a terrible experience,” he said at Egypt’s National Blood Transfusio­n headquarte­rs in Cairo, describing just one of his symptoms.

Things got worse for the family when his elderly father was also infected, making Egypt’s blistering hot summer months a hellish period of fretting over his recovery from a loud, dry cough and constant fevers.

“I came to donate today because I didn’t want someone else to go through what I and my family went through,” he said.

Egypt, like the United States and a handful of other countries, is trying to fight the pandemic in part by using convalesce­nt plasma, the watery fluid in the blood of recovered patients that is teeming with antibodies.

After US President Donald Trump touted it as a temporary cure, his administra­tion issued an emergency authorisat­ion last month to use plasma from recovered Covid-19 patients.

The idea is to harvest the plasma and inject it into other patients to give them an immunologi­cal boost that helps fight the same infection.

The scientific community is divided on using plasma to treat Covid-19, but proponents say the technique has proven effective in small studies to treat other infectious diseases, including Ebola and SARS.

Nascent clinical plasma trials to fight the new pandemic have also been launched in Bolivia, Britain, Colombia, India, Mexico, Pakistan and South Korea.

Ihab Serageldin, director of Egypt’s National Blood Transfusio­n Centre, said he believes convalesce­nt plasma is a promising treatment while the race continues to develop, mass-produce and distribute an effective vaccine.

Since April he has spearheade­d Egypt’s campaign urging the country’s more than 78 000 known recovered patients to donate their plasma.

“If the US didn’t find it promising then it wouldn’t have launched a national campaign urging recovered virus patients to donate their plasma,” he said.

Serageldin said in Egypt eligible donors must be aged 18 to 60, weigh at least 50kg and have produced a certain quality of antibodies.

Over 200 people have so far donated plasma, each providing 800ml of the fluid split into four bags, which are given to two patients at a time. – AFP

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