Egypt tries plasma treatment to fight pandemic

Mohamed Fathi, an Egyptian man who has recovered from Covid-19, winced as he watched tubes running down his arm to donate blood plasma, but insisted: “if I can help just one person, that’s a very good thing”.

The 25-year-old land surveyor from Cairo caught the disease in May, on the eve of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival, becoming one of the almost 100,000 reported cases in Egypt, where more than 5,000 people have died of the novel coronavirus.

“Losing the sense of taste was a terrible experience,” he told AFP at Egypt’s National Blood Transfusion headquarters in Cairo, describing just one of his symptoms. “You feel like you’re eating for the sake of it.”

Things got worse for the family when his elderly father was also infected, making Egypt’s blistering hot summer months a hellish period of fretting over his recovery from a loud, dry cough and constant fevers.

“I came to donate today because I didn’t want someone else to go through what I and my family went through,” said the softly spoken young man, one of about 200 volunteers who had so far taken part in the budding project.

Egypt, like the United States and a handful of other countries, is trying to fight the pandemic in part by using convalescent plasma, the watery fluid in the blood of recovered patients that is teeming with antibodies.

After US President Donald Trump touted it as a temporary cure, his administration issued an emergency authorisation last month to use plasma from recovered Covid-19 patients.

The idea is to harvest the plasma and inject it into other patients to give them an immunological boost that helps fight the same infection.

The scientific community is divided on using plasma to treat Covid-19, but proponents say the technique has proven effective in small studies to treat other infectious diseases, including Ebola and SARS. (AFP | Farid Farid)