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WHO: Use of blood plasma is experimental therapy

The World Health Organization said Monday that the use of blood plasma to treat COVID-19 sufferers is still considered an “experimental” therapy and preliminary results showing that it may work are not yet “conclusive.”

President Donald Trump announced on Sunday an emergency authorization to use blood plasma from people recovered from coronavirus to treat the sick.

Dr Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s chief scientist, said convalescent plasma therapy has been used in the last century to treat numerous infectious diseases, with varying levels of success, but added that WHO still considers the therapy experimental and should be further evaluated. The treatment is difficult to standardize, she added, as people produce different levels of antibodies and plasma must be collected individually from recovered patients.

Swaminathan said the studies have been small and have provided “low-quality evidence.” He indicated that countries can “make an emergency list if they feel that the benefits outweigh the risks,” but that “generally is done when the most definitive evidence is expected.”

Dr Bruce Aylward, senior adviser to the WHO director general, said plasma therapy can have numerous side effects, from mild fever and chills to more serious lung-related reactions.