New York Will Bring Out A Spanish Flu-Era Treatment To Help Severe Cases Of COVID-19

Health officials in New York State are dusting off a century-old treatment, used during the flu pandemic of 1918, to provide a measure of relief to the sickest coronavirus patients, Business Insider reports. The treatment is not a cure, however, but it may help with some of their symptoms.

A century ago, the Spanish Flu, as it was colloquially called, tore across the world, killing tens of millions in the process. And though the disease came and went without a cure being developed, doctors at the time did have some limited tools that they could use to ease the suffering of some patients, at the very least.

a field hospital during the 1918 flu pandemic
Wikimedia Commons | Otis Historical Archives - National Museum Of Health And Medicine

Now, health researchers are reaching into the same toolbag used a century ago to treat people sickened by COVID-19.

The therapy is called "convalescent plasma," and it involves taking blood from those who have recovered from the illness, separating the plasma -- the liquid portion of the blood -- and then injecting it into sick patients. In doing so, antibodies from the recovered patient will enter the bloodstream of the sickened individual, lessening their symptoms and increasing their chances of recovery.

Although the therapy hasn't been used in the U.S. in decades, recent reports from China suggest that it's something that can be used while a vaccine is developed -- a process that could take months.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this week that the convalescent plasma will be used in his state. For now, it will only be an option for the sickest patients, but if it proves effective and safe, it will be used on other patients as well.

The state will need the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before proceeding. However, that agency has already indicated that it is "working expeditiously" to get the therapy up and running.

In the meantime, officials in New York will be looking at patients who have gotten sick and then recovered, with a view toward getting them in to donate their blood.

Meanwhile, researchers are working on getting a cure for the pandemic. As previously reported by The Inquisitr, scientists are studying dozens of medicines -- including some that treat conditions such as mental illness and diabetes -- as possible treatments for COVID-19. These drugs, in one way or another, work with proteins in the body -- the very same proteins that viruses such as the novel coronavirus hijack in order to force the cells to make copies of the pathogen. Interrupting or halting that process could prove to be an effective treatment for the disease.