Indonesia begins large-scale trials of Covid-19 blood plasma therapy

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – The Indonesian Health Ministry’s Health Research and Development Agency (Litbangkes) has begun large-scale clinical trials of convalescent blood plasma therapy on Covid-19 patients.

Litbangkes acting head Slamet said Fatmawati General Hospital in South Jakarta; Hasan Sadikin hospital in Bandung, West Java; Dr Ramelan hospital in Surabaya; and Sidoarjo regional hospital in East Java would host the clinical trials that began on Tuesday (Sept 8).

He added that 20 other hospitals would soon follow.

“We open the opportunity for interested hospitals to quickly contact Litbangkes so that we can put them on the list (for clinical trials),” Slamet said on Wednesday, as quoted by Kompas.com.

He said 364 Covid-19 patients would be recruited for the clinical trials, which were expected to end within three months. He added that convalescent plasma had been shown to be effective in small studies on the treatment of certain infectious diseases, including Ebola and Sars convalescent plasma can only be administered to Covid-19 patients in emergency situations or for research purposes.

Research into its effectiveness and safety is ongoing, but some early results have been encouraging.

Slamet said randomised controlled trials would be necessary to prove the treatment’s efficacy.

“The researchers’ main focus is on the safety and the efficacy of the therapy. For that, Litbangkes supports any efforts from clinicians to perform the convalescent therapy on Covid-19 patients,” he said.

The therapy will use blood plasma extracted from recovered patients.

The plasma will be injected into severely ill Covid-19 patients in the hope that it will give their immune systems a boost. David H Muldjono, a researcher from the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology, said that convalescent plasma therapy could be performed on Covid-19 patients who showed moderate to heavy symptoms with pneumonia and hypoxia.

“It’s a therapy. It has not yet been clinically tested globally and does not have any protocols. So we don’t give it in the context of prevention,” he said, adding that the therapy was only for treatment purposes.

Subjects of the trial must be at least 18 years old and be currently suffering moderate to heavy symptoms of Covid-19. Subjects will be injected with 200ml of blood plasma twice a day for three days and will be closely monitored for 28 days. The clinical trials are being conducted by Litbangkes in partnership with the Eijkman Institute, the Research and Technology Ministry, the National Research and Innovation Agency (Brin), the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI), the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) and several hospitals.

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