How Convalescent Plasma Could Help Fight COVID-19
The last time most of us gave any thought to antibodies was probably in high school biology, but we’re getting a crash refresher course thanks to COVID-19. They are, after all, the key to our best defenses against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that’s caused the global pandemic. People who have been infected likely rely on antibodies to recover, and antibodies are what vaccines are designed to produce. Or at least that’s what infectious-disease and public-health experts assume for now. Because SARS-CoV-2 is such a new virus, even the world’s best authorities aren’t yet sure what it will take to build proper and lasting immunity against it. But antibodies are a good bet, since people who get infected and recover from disease generate them both to block viruses or bacteria from infecting cells and to mark them for destruction by an army of immune cells. Lab studies also show that throwing some of those antibodies from recovered patients into lab cultures with the virus seems to neutralize it—a strong sign that these antibodies at least play a part in a good immune response. That’s the reason that on Aug. 23, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19 patients, as it has for another experimental therapy, remdesivir. The decision allows doctors to transfuse plasma donated from recovered COVID-19 patients into currently sick patients in the hopes that some of the immun...
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