Two South Koreans have recovered from COVID-19 after “plasma treatment,” Severance Hospital said on Tuesday, in the first cases of this kind in South Korea, with no vaccine and proven treatment for the virus developed yet.
One of the two patients was released from the hospital “in good shape,” the hospital said, adding details of the treatment were published in the latest edition of the Journal of Korean Medical Science (JKMS).
The news comes six days after the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) announced the start of treating coronavirus patients with plasma extracted from people who have recovered from the virus-driven illness.
The two recovered patients are a 71-year-old man and a 67-year-old woman who were once in critical condition.
According to the hospital, the man contracted the virus without a pre-existing condition. He was initially treated with anti-viral drugs but developed pneumonia in both his lungs. The plasma treatment was a last resort, it said.
A total of 500ml of plasma, extracted from a recovered coronavirus patient in his 20s, was injected into the patient over 12 hours, along with steroid treatment. His health improved noticeably two days later.
The woman — with chronic high blood pressure — was taken to the hospital with severe pneumonia and breathing problems. She was initially treated with anti-malaria and drugs used to treat AIDS patients to no avail.
She also received 500ml of plasma via injection over 12 hours and her condition improved significantly.
Dr. Choi Joon-yong, who treated the patients, said the plasma treatment has side effects and its efficacy is not yet proven. But these cases demonstrate that in the absence of a vaccine and proven treatment, plasma therapy can be a viable option for patients in critical condition, Choi said.
Meanwhile the government will set guidelines for the plasma treatment of coronavirus patients.
Kwon Joon-wook, deputy KCDC director, told reporters on Tuesday that plasma therapy guidelines will be announced within days.
It was introduced in 2015 when Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) hit the country, helping the recovery of nine patients. Kwon said China had reported successful treatment of cases with this method.
But he remained cautious about the effectiveness of plasma therapy, saying health authorities will apply the guidelines to hospitals after gathering opinions from experts.
Source: The Korea Times