Once a person recovers from the diseases these antibodies remain circulating in the blood for a while. This helps the patient's body recognize and fight a new attack by the pathogen. It is a natural defense mechanism of the human body.
Plasma-Derived TherapyTo treat the patients of COVID-19 and protect those at risk researchers will extract antibodies from the blood of surviving patients, which can then be injected into infected people. This will help the patient's immune system to generate its own antibodies. This type of therapy is known as plasma-derived therapy or convalescent plasma.
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It provides a type of passive immunity to people which could help their bodies fight off the virus. However, passive immunization does not provide long-term protection because the recipient body has not actively produced any antibodies itself. As a result, the antibodies it "borrows" will help to fight an infection but only for a short period.
Passive immunization usually lasts for s few weeks or months after which the transferred antibodies get broken down by the host body. Also, this is time-consuming. It takes time to engineer and purify these antibodies which mean the treatments will be reserved for those who are at more risk. It can also be given to front-line health care workers to help protect them from becoming ill.
Plasma therapy is not a new technique and has been used before. It has been used to treat patients during outbreaks of Ebola. A drug consisting of antibodies prevented the virus from spreading in the body reducing the mortality rate of Ebola by 30%.
Vaccines work by teaching the body to make its own antibodies to an infectious agent without a person ever becoming infected. This is why they are among the most powerful weapons in public health. But a vaccine for COVID-19 is likely more than a year away. So plasma-therapy could be a quicker alternative until a vaccine is developed.