Pilot research study set to fight COVID-19
Dr Anna Tai, a researcher at the Institute for Respiratory Health, and a respiratory specialist at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, was recently awarded funding from the Department of Health for COVID-19 research. Dr Tai has been on the front line of WA’s COVID-19 battle since the State recorded its first case in February this year.
The pilot study will explore the use of convalescent plasma in the early treatment of COVID-19 patients.
The project aims to determine whether antibodies contained in plasma donated by patients who have already recovered from the disease and virus free (convalescent plasma) can help prevent COVID-19 patients from deteriorating to the point where they need to be hospitalised.
Several Chinese trials have shown that transfusion of plasma to severely ill patients with statistically significant beneficial effects.
This approach has been used with success in the treatment of viral outbreaks of Ebola, SARS, MERS and the Spanish flu.
The project will help in gaining a better understanding of how COVID-19 targets the human respiratory system and we might develop effective ways to treat people who contract the virus.
The project will also see whether such early intervention can reduce the time it takes for a patient to feel better or clear the virus from his or her system.
Dr Tai will work alongside research groups in other Australian States to source participants and plasma donors.
The current Federal and State health department containment policies have led to the flattening of the COVID-19 infection curve of. However, the vast majority of the Australian population remains vulnerable to COVID-19 if exposed to the virus when the containment period is fully relaxed.
Ensuring a safe and secure supply of convalescent plasma from the pool of donors who have recovered from COVID 19 infection will potentially provide an essential adjunct to current treatment options should an increased number of Western Australians develop moderate to severe disease, prior to the development of the ultimate weapon in our medical arsenal, namely, a vaccine.
Dr Tai’s research project is one of 12 research projects funded by the Department of Health to mitigate the impact of this new disease.