by Ennio Bassi
Milan – Simple, very effective and very cheap. From the front line hospitals in Mantua and Pavia (Italy), a bomb is on its way against the Coronavirus that could fight the virus, rewrite the history of this tragic pandemic and reset to zero the world pharmaceutical industry’s billion-dollar revenue expectations. But let’s go in order, trying to reconstruct in detail the history of this discovery that in a short time could upset global healthcare. It all started in the Carlo Poma Hospital in Mantua and in the San Matteo Hospital in Pavia, where, thanks to the intuition of some immunologists, in the peak moments of the pandemic it was decided to test an experimental therapy that consists in injecting the plasma of those patients who have already had the Covid-19 and are now cured.
The results of this experiment were surprising because they show that “hyperimmune” plasma, i.e. the plasma of people cured of the coronavirus, being rich in antibodies against Covid-19, once injected into the blood of patients still infected would help them very effectively to fight the virus.
Of course there is still a lot of caution because the trial has a short history. However, the very good results of the trial are there for all to see. “The results seen in the individual cases have been surprising – said Massimo Franchini, head of Immunohaematology and Transfusion Medicine of Poma di Mantova – now with colleagues from Pavia we are reviewing all the cases, evaluating the clinical and instrumental response, to draw general conclusions on what is a specific therapy against COVID-19”.
The results of this first protocol are not yet known in detail. However, there are rumors circulating in social and chats that report a total recovery of the 25 patients exposed to the test and reveal that in Mantua, which, we remind you, is in the region most affected by the virus, the deaths from Coronavirus have been zeroed for almost a month. Of course, it will be necessary to wait for numbers and final conclusions before we can have absolute certainty. Nevertheless, the clues are converging in suggesting that this approach to treatment, which is also used effectively against Ebola, is particularly effective.
Non-trivial operational issues remain to be resolved. Plasma donors must be healthy, which means that on average only the plasma of three out of ten donors can be used. But the strength and potential of this approach remain enormous in any case. If only for reasons of time and cost.
If, therefore, as everything suggests, the effectiveness of the use of hyperimmune plasma is confirmed and authorised for intensive use, this will totally change the scenario of the pandemic and also the health and pharmaceutical situation resulting from it. It is clear, in fact, that a therapy of this kind, which is immediately applicable, easy to implement and very low cost, would frustrate the expectations of those who work on vaccines and therapies.
In other words, it is to be expected that the studies and results of the experimentation carried out by the hospitals in Mantua and Pavia will find fierce opposition from the international pharmaceutical industry. Industry which, if this therapeutic approach becomes practice, will evidently suffer very serious losses.
And of course this is not just an Italian issue. The pandemic that, unfortunately, seems to be taking hold even in places that initially seemed to have been saved, for example Africa, is a worldwide scourge, but also a huge business opportunity for “big pharma”. In short, in addition to the health of half the world at stake there are billionaire interests. This means that the Italian Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization will have to pronounce quickly on this issue. And they must do so before the powerful propaganda machine of the pharmaceutical companies starts making her voice heard.