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Convalescent plasma reduces the risk of death from COVID-19; exposure to the common cold can limit the severity of the disease

By Nancy Lapid

(Reuters) – The following is a brief description of some of the latest research on the new coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines against COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Convalescent plasma reduces the risk of COVID-19 death

Infusions of antibody-rich blood plasma from humans who have recovered from the new coronavirus, known as reconstituted plasma, may reduce the risk of death for hospitalized patients with COVID-19, according to a joint analysis of data from eight previous studies of more than 700 hospitalized patients worldwide. The researchers found that mortality was approximately 13% in patients receiving restorative plasma versus about 25% for those who did not receive treatment. An earlier study of 5,000 hospitalized adults with severe or life-threatening COVID-1

9 showed that reconstituted plasma was safe. In this study, less than 1% of patients had serious side effects in the first four hours after transfusion. The present study cannot account for differences in factors such as how sick the patients were, how much plasma they received, how long they were sick before taking them, and how long the doctors followed them. “Given the safety of plasma administration in patients with COVID-19, the results … provide encouragement for continued use as therapy,” the researchers wrote in a report published prior to the peer review. (Https://bit.ly/2Dq1BNp)

Exposure to the common cold can affect the severity of COVID-19

In patients with COVID-19, immune system T cells learn to recognize and target the new coronavirus. But some people who have never been infected with the virus have T cells that also recognize it. The researchers suspected that in these individuals, past exposure to other coronaviruses, such as those that cause the common cold, had somehow primed their T cells to recognize and attack this new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and appeared to be that new research confirms that. In studies of human blood samples collected long before the new coronavirus was discovered, the researchers found T cells that were equally reactive against the new virus and four types of common cold coronaviruses. The strongest T-cell responses to the new coronavirus were related to the spiny protein that the virus uses to enter human cells. “We knew that there was existing reactivity, and this study provides very strong direct molecular evidence that memory T cells can ‘see’ sequences that are very similar between common cold coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2,” co-author Alessandro Sete of La Jola Institute of Immunology said in a statement. It is thought that previous exposure to the common cold virus may contribute to variations in the severity of COVID-19, the researchers said in the journal Science on Tuesday. (Https://bit.ly/2DfjEG9)

Severe COVID-19 may be less fatal in children

Children with COVID-19 rarely become critically ill and when they do, tend to perform better than adults based on early data from an ongoing study. The Critical Coronavirus and Pediatric Epidemiology (CAKE) study included 65 pediatric intensive care units in 18 countries. In a paper published Wednesday in the journal Pediatrics, the research team reported the first 17 children with severe COVID-19 from 10 hospitals in Chile, Colombia, Italy, Spain and the United States. The most necessary respiratory support, almost half of which must be placed on ventilators. The symptoms were varied, fever, cough and gastrointestinal problems. In all, one child died, four developed heart disease and three remain in hospital. Researchers hope to have more data soon that will provide additional information about the care and outcomes of these patients, which may become more important as schools reopen around the world. To date, CAKE has enrolled nearly 100 critically ill children, “and we anticipate perhaps another 100 by the end of 2020,” Dr. Sebastian Gonzalez-Dambrauskas of the Latin American Children’s Collaboration Network told Reuters. (Https://bit.ly/3fwpAaz)

Go to https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/yxmvjqywprz/index.html in an external browser for Reuters schedule for vaccines and treatments in development.

(Report by Nancy Lapid and Megan Brooks; Edited by Bill Bercrot)

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