Alternative therapy for COVID-19 needs careful examination

Izah Azahari

Alternative treatment such as blood plasma therapy or blood plasma infusion methods has no known effectiveness, but has been “playing in the minds of every medical practitioner”, Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar said during a press conference yesterday.

“Usually if a person is infected with a virus, he or she will have an antibody response, and at this time since we do not have a vaccine, it seems to be a good idea,” said the minister.

The minister further explained that for blood plasma therapy or blood plasma infusion method, medical practitioners would take blood from recovered patients and infuse into those who are in critical condition.

However, the minister also cautioned that there are a number of aspects that need attention when using this method. He said, “If 100 people are infected, not all of them will have the anti-body, and there may be other mechanisms that help a person recover. What is known at this time is that most antibody, if any will only show, a majority of the time, from the seventh day.

“This is why the quick half-hour test kit is not effective, especially if it is done on a newly infected person in less than seven days,” he added.

The minister explained that there is no specific protocol to it and that using this method is more out of desperation. A number of institutions are currently using the method, showing positive results, however, the method has not been recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO) at this time.

“Keep in mind, we are taking blood from recovered patients who have not fully recovered as well, and how much blood and antibody needs to be taken is also another thing,” said the minister.

The transfer of blood from one person to the other is also a risk, even with the ability to screen diseases such as HIV, syphilis and the likes, the virus may trigger other diseases that are unknown.

“So we have to balance the risks and benefits,” said the minister.

He added that the Ministry of Health has the intention to attempt the same method, but careful examination is still needed after it was found that some patients who have recovered do not have any antibody.