KARACHI: Pakistani scientists achieve a significant breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19. The Dow University of Health Sciences’ research team has prepared an intravenous immunoglobulin( IVIG) with plasma obtained from recovered coronavirus patients through which COVID-19 victims can be treated.
Vice-Chancellor, Prof Muhammad Saeed Quraishy, called it a significant breakthrough in the war against COVID-19.
This treatment modality is a safe, low-risk, and highly effective against the coronavirus. The immunoglobulin was prepared after separating the antibodies found in the blood of a recovered coronavirus patient.
This method is considerably different from plasma therapy, and it should be noted that the treatment by hyper immunoglobulin (H-IVIG) has been approved by the US Federal Agency, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for normal conditions. Plasma therapy, on the other hand, is only allowed in emergencies due to its side effects.
The DUHS research team led by Dr Shaukat Ali has developed this H-IVIG after days of continuous hard work, given the crisis. The team was able to collect the first blood sample in March 2020 and managed to isolate antibodies chemically, purified them, and later concentrated these antibodies using the ultrafiltration techniques that remove the remaining unwanted materials from the final product. This is the first global report of isolation, formulation, and safety demonstration of immunoglobulin purified from recovered COVID-19 patients and can be a ray of hope in this time of crisis when the whole nation expects national researchers to come forward and serve the country.
The method is also a type of passive immunization but uses purified antibodies rather than the whole plasma. The treatment is considered safer and more effective than plasma transfusion as it does not carry the undesired component of blood-like plasma proteins and potential bacterial and viral pathogens. Such purified antibodies are commercially available globally against diseases like tetanus, rabies, influenza, and hepatitis. The same strategy has been effectively used in the time of other viral epidemics like MERS, SARS, and EBOLA.
The team used blood donated by recovered COVID-19 patients to purify antibodies capable of neutralizing the coronavirus. Laboratory testing and safety trials of the formulated product (experimental vials) in animals have been successful.
The Vice-Chancellor of DUHS, Prof Saeed Quraishy, has assigned the task to the clinicians working at the Dow Hospital to team up with researchers to devise a strategy for fulfilling the ethical and regulatory requirements for trials.
The lead researcher, Dr Shaukat Ali, is the Principal of the Dow College of Biotechnology. Other team members include Dr Shobha Luxmi, Syed Muneeb Uddin, Mir Rashid Ali, Ayesha Ali, Mujtaba Khan, Fatima Anjum, and Dr Sohaib Tauheed.
The team appreciated the guidance and extraordinary support received from the Vice-Chancellor and said that they are determined to carry their achievements forward. Their drive to collect further blood donations is continued, and in parallel, they are working on scaling-up their production process.
This is a major step towards international efforts for controlling COVID-19 disease mortality. Already six world-renowned multinational companies have joined hands to proceed in a similar direction to produce IVIG from recovered patients. In this regard, the Dow University of Health Sciences has taken the lead in developing the first local IVIG against the strain causing COVID-19 disease in Pakistan.
It has already been shown earlier that the COVID-19 strain prevalent in Pakistan has a few mutations; hence it is expected that the local IVIG against the local virus strain will be very useful and efficacious.
The DUHS is leading the efforts against the novel COVID-19 by first isolating the SARS-COV-2 virus for genome sequencing, then discovering human genes resisting the virus, and now has isolated and purified the antibodies composed of the immunoglobulin’s fraction of the plasma of the recovered patients.