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US FDA allows doctors to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients with blood from survivors

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will allow doctors across the country to begin using plasma donated from survivors of the novel coronavirus to treat critically ill patients in the absence of an approved vaccine.

The method called "convalescent plasma" essentially involves harvesting virus-fighting antibodies from the blood of previously infected COVID-19 patients.

The method has been used back centuries ago and during the fight for flu pandemic in 1918, before the modern vaccines and antiviral drugs was introduced.

“It is possible that convalescent plasma that contains antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) might be effective against the infection,” the FDA said in a statement.

"Although participation in clinical trials is one way for patients to obtain access to convalescent plasma, these may not be readily available to all patients in potential need. Therefore, given the public health emergency that the expanding COVID-19 outbreak presents, while clinical trials are being conducted, FDA is facilitating access to COVID-19 convalescent plasma for use in patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19," it explained.

“The approach definitely has merit, and what’s remarkable about it is it’s not a new idea; it’s been with us for a good hundred years or longer,” Dr. Jeffrey Henderson, an associate professor of medicine and molecular microbiology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, told NBC News.

“I think we don’t know until we have experience and case reports with this particular disease whether it will be effective, but just based on its track record with a number of other viruses, I think it has a very good chance of working,” he added.

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