One of the best studies in the country on potential COVID-19 therapy may be delayed due to an irony: it is struggling to find enough patients to treat.
Researchers from across Canada have come together to conduct a study, known as CONCOR (Convalescent Plasma for COVID-19 Research), to see if the antibodies raised from people who have recovered from the disease caused by the new coronaviruses can treat those who are still fighting the disease. Dr. Dana Devine, chief scientist at Canadian Blood Services (CBS), who leads the blood drive for the study, told iPolitics on Thursday that it could be extended due to a shortage of patients who are still sick with COVID-19.
“We want to do a study that has a total of 1,200 patients. We know it’s going to take a while, especially because, you know – it’s a good problem to have – but the study will take us longer than expected, now that (the spread of the coronavirus) is slowing down, ” Guess told me.
READ MORE: Canadian Blood Services Explores Use Of Survivor’s Blood Plasma To Treat Patients With COVID-19
For the first time this week, Canada has exceeded the threshold of having more COVID-19 cases recovered than active patients. On Thursday evening, the federal government reported nearly 81,000 cases in Canada, which includes approximately 41,000 people who have recovered.
According to data recorded by iPolitics on infections, between 428 and 1,915 new cases were reported each day. There have been a variable number of tests performed each day and there is no clear trend in the number of new cases increasing or decreasing in Canada. A Health Canada page tracking new infections, however, indicates that “if new cases continue to be reported across the country … a downward trend in cases reported daily [has been] observed. “
“It slows down. So we end up with this second wave scheduled, and then we will have more patients in the fall when this second wave arrives, “said Devine.
The federal government has warned for weeks that it is planning a second wave of infections. Relaxation, but not entirely, the removal of social restrictions are the means available to provincial governments to revive parts of the economy while mitigating a new wave of epidemics.
The first transfusion of convalescent plasma to a patient with COVID-19 in Canada took place on May 14 at the CHU Sainte-Justine hospital in Montreal. Blood plasma is where the antibodies are. Scientists have hypothesized that pulling these antibodies from people who have recovered from COVID-19 and giving them to people who are still sick could help them recover from the disease. The same treatment was used to treat patients during the terrible Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 and people with Ebola.
READ MORE: Canadian Blood Services to collect first donation of COVID-19 convalescent plasma on Wednesday
The Canadian trial includes CBS, Héma-Québec (the Quebec equivalent of the national blood collection agency), 10 dispersed research teams and some 50 hospitals. The study still accepts donors, but to date, according to Devine, has recruited about 1,000 people – about half of whom will be eligible for a donation.
Currently, convalescent blood plasma therapy is only allowed in Canada in clinical trials. According to typical medical research protocols, the study will release preliminary data.
“If it worked really, really well, and you could statistically show that with a much smaller trial size, you would stop your trial earlier,” said Devine. “And in the same way, if you see that it doesn’t work at all, and you can tell it early, then you would also stop trying. “
Health Canada has the discretion to extend treatment beyond clinical trials, if the federal Department of Health determines that the available data prove that it is safe and effective.
A US study of 5,000 COVID-19 hospital patients found last week that convalescent blood plasma therapy was safe, but not self-explanatory.
One observation to date in the study that Devine said she found interesting is the difference in the way different patients have responded to COVID-19.
“What type of antibody does the body make when it is infected and how strong they are and how quickly they develop and whether they will go away or stay there, the variation in one person to another is quite high, ”she said. .
READ MORE: COVID-19 Blood Plasma Treatment Trials Unaffected by WHO Warnings About Lack of Evidence on Immunity