WHO warns coronavirus treatment touted by Trump still experimental

WHO warns coronavirus treatment touted by Trump still experimental
© Getty Images

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday warned that the use of plasma from recovered coronavirus patients as a treatment for COVID-19 remains experimental despite the White House’s authorization of it Sunday.

“The results are not conclusive” on the treatment’s effectiveness, the WHO’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said in a press briefing, according to The Associated Press. The same treatment has been used historically for flu and measles outbreaks and the Ebola outbreak that hit several West African nations.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBubba Wallace to be driver of Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin NASCAR team Graham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Southwest Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid MORE, announcing the emergency authorization Sunday, described the treatment as a “breakthrough.”


Swaminathan said the treatment remains experimental, and that, because different people produce different levels of antibodies, it can be difficult to standardize the treatment.

“Of course, countries can do an emergency listing if they feel the benefits outweigh the risks,” she said, according to the AP. “But that’s usually done when you’re waiting for the more definitive evidence.”

The use of plasma “should not be considered a new standard of care” for the virus, Swaminathan said in a letter, adding that further data on its use should be produced in the months ahead.

Although plasma treatment shows “huge promise,” Martin Landray of the University of Oxford said, “there is a huge gap between theory and proven benefit.”

“If effective, convalescent plasma could be rapidly used worldwide. If not, it could be abandoned,” he said.

University of Leeds associate professor of medicine Stephen Griffin compared the White House touting the treatment to Trump’s aggressive promotion of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.

“It appears that the lessons from hydroxychloroquine have not been learned,” he said, according to the AP.

While the FDA granted an emergency authorization for the antimalarial drug amid promising early data, it has since suspended it following trials indicating the drug was ineffective against the virus and increased the risks of liver, heart and kidney conditions.