The horrific spread of the deadly coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, is still out of control. On a daily basis, news about death rates are emerging from all corners of the world. Healthcare experts, besides emphasizing preemptive measures, are also suggesting many options with a hope of positive outcomes. Dr Tahir Shamsi, who heads the National Institute of Blood Diseases (Karachi), has come forward with a laudable solution to defeat the coronavirus.
I too have started studying various research reports to understand the current situation related to the coronavirus outbreak, both at national and global levels. The blood of a Covid-19 patient naturally creates antibodies in order to fight off the virus. Therefore, these antibodies found in the blood of a recovered patient could be used to boost the immunity of the other infected persons.
Immunity is the state of protection against infectious diseases, and there are two kinds of techniques in this regard; (i) active immunization, and (ii) passive immunization. In the process of active immunization, the vaccine prevents an infectious sickness by activating the production of antibodies in a body for fighting off invading viruses. In the modern medical world, vaccination is considered the most effective method against different diseases.
Although different scientists, belonging to China, the US and other countries, are trying hard to control the effects of the coronavirus, there are currently no specific cure and medical treatment so far. Even if a country succeeds to invent the vaccine for Covid-19, distribution to the entire world population in such short period of time itself is a big challenge.
In this situation, Dr Shamsi has suggested adopting of passive immunization, in which antibodies of a healthy person are transferred to other patients with weak antibodies. Historically, the method of passive immunization was first utilized to treat diseases in the late 19th century.
German physiologist Emil von Behring received the first one Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1901, in recognition of his contribution to the fight against diphtheria. He was also acknowledged as a “saviour of children,” as the said disease was a major cause of child death at the time. A research study, published in Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift (German Medical Journal) in 1890, had also highlighted the success story of treating diphtheria through using the method of passive immunization.
The way China has controlled the coronavirus outbreak, which initially originated in Wuhan, is an eye-opening lesson for every country. Apparently, Chinese doctors had also adopted the method of passive immunization for treating coronavirus patients.
In Pakistan, there are almost 4,500 confirmed cases. This may mean that naturally the majority of our people has strong antibodies in the blood. Those persons who have successfully recovered could become saviours of thousands of other patients with weak antibodies. For this noble purpose, they have to donate plasma from their blood. A recovered patient would be able to donate blood plasma to at least two other patients. Reportedly, American doctors have also started extracting convalescent plasma from the recovered patients of Covid-19.
I would like to make an appeal to the government to understand the sensitivity of the ongoing crisis. It is not in the interest of our country to maintain a lockdown for a longer period of time. We need to learn from China, and adopt the technique of passive immunization without wastage of further time. Already, we are too late. Nationwide blood donation programmes to collect the plasma from recovered Covid-19 patients must be initiated under the supervision of Dr Shamsi.
All of those who have successfully recovered from Covid-19 must be thankful to God and play their role for the sake of saving other human lives. They must realize that the best way to please God is to donate plasma from their blood.
The writer is a member of the NationalAssembly and patron-in-chief of thePakistan Hindu Council.