Israeli hospital provides groundbreaking coronavirus treatment to seriously ill patient

Doctors express cautious optimism after the world's first passive immunization treatment is provided to a seriously ill COVID-19 patient.

Chana Roberts ,

Coronavirus ward at Hadassah Hospital
Coronavirus ward at Hadassah Hospital
Hadassah spokesperson

Doctors at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem on Tuesday provided an innovative treatment to a coronavirus patient who was in very serious condition, after all other treatments had failed to help her.

The new treatment, immunoglobulins (IgG) for COVID-19, is the first of its kind in the world: No other hospital has attempted to provide passive vaccines for coronavirus patients.

On Tuesday evening, the first dose of the passive vaccine was administered to a young woman with a pre-existing condition, whose CT scan showed completely white lungs - a sign that she was critically ill. All of the accepted treatments for coronavirus, including the use of an ECMO machine, had failed to improve her condition.

Several hours after she received the immunoglobulins, the patient's condition stabilized, leading doctors to become cautiously optimistic. At the moment, she remains hospitalized in Hadassah's ICU.

Two months ago, Hadassah put out a call for plasma from recovered coronavirus patients, enabling the production of immunoglobulins. That call was answered in large part by the haredi community, who arrived en masse to donate plasma, with the encouragement of both the rabbinic court and the Eida Haharedit in Jerusalem.

The plasma collected from recovered patients was converted into an IgG-based serum by the Kamada pharmaceutical company in Kibbutz Beit Kama in southern Israel. Kamada is the first company globally to complete the production of immunoglobulins for the treatment of the virus.

Hadassah emphasized that the project is being carried out with Health Ministry approval and in cooperation with Magen David Adom (MDA). The hospital said it had waited for an extended period of time to receive the approval, while at the same time gathering samples and preparing the serum, in the hopes of having it put to use.

Immunoglobulins, made from plasma, are commonly known as a "passive vaccine" and are in use for other diseases such as rabies, for which patients receive an active and a passive vaccine within days of exposure, as well as measles, when the immunoglobulins are provided to those who were exposed to the disease but who are unable to receive the live attenuated vaccine.

"Active" vaccines typically involve the injection of a small dose of antigen into the recipient, whereas passive vaccines inject antibodies from a donor into the recipient. While active vaccines can be given by nurses at clinics, passive vaccines are generally provided only in a hospital setting, and dose is weight-dependent.

"We are crossing our fingers that the treatment received by the seriously ill patient will succeed," Hadassah Director Zeev Rothstein said, noting that "it doesn't come as a surprise" that the treatment came from Hadassah, with its emphasis on pioneering.

"Hospital staff, including those in the blood bank, those who work with plasma, and the laboratory staff, have put in much effort to allow this project to succeed. The immunization given today only strengthens the determination with which everyone works at Hadassah. I would like to thank everyone who took part in this complex operation, both within Hadassah and outside of it."




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