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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Johns Hopkins: Infectious Disease Experts Recommend Using Antibodies from COVID-19 Survivors as Stopgap Measure to Treat Patients and Protect Health Care Workers

Countries fighting outbreaks of the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19 should consider using the antibodies of people who have recovered from infection to treat cases and provide short-term immunity — lasting weeks to months — to critical health care workers, argue two infectious disease experts, including Dr. Arturo Casadevall, Alfred and Jill Sommer Professor and Chair of the department of the molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In the paper “The convalescent sera option for containing COVID-19,” published online March 13 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Casadevall and Dr. Liise-anne Pirofski, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, write that the infusion of antibody-containing serum from convalescing patients has a long history of effective use as a stopgap measure against infectious diseases, and can be implemented relatively quickly — long before antiviral treatments, monoclonal antibodies, and vaccines are developed, approved and available.

Physicians have long known that patients tend to make large numbers of antibodies against an infecting pathogen. These antibodies circulate in the blood of survivors for months and years afterward, and usually have the potential to bind to the pathogen and neutralize its ability to infect cells. The procedure for isolating serum, the fraction of blood containing antibodies, is also a long-established technology and can be performed using equipment normally found in hospitals and blood-banking facilities.

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