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Friday, September 18, 2020

Qatar and Italy collaborate on potential COVID-19 treatment

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by Sahar ElKabbash

Partnership researches how plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients could provide long-awaited treatment.

Photo of samples being loaded onto the military aircraft

Plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients in Qatar has been flown to Italy, where it will help identify potentially life-saving treatments.

Thanks to a partnership between Qatar Foundation, Hamad Medical Corporation and the Embassy of Italy, an Italian military aircraft took off from Doha on Saturday, 20 June to transport the convalescent plasma (CP) samples. They will be analyzed by researchers at the University Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, whose main campus is in Milan, along with the Sardinia-based Mater Olbia Hospital. The organisations will be looking to see how the human immune system responds to CP.

It’s currently thought that CP, which is rich in virus-fighting antibodies, could be a promising source of treatment, but data is limited.

“The global scientific community has perhaps never been as connected and united as it is in these unprecedentedly challenging times,” says Dr Richard O’Kennedy, Qatar Foundation’s Vice President of Research, Development, and Innovation.

“The provision of convalescent plasma samples from COVID-19 patients in Qatar to expert biomedical researchers in Italy reflects the longstanding and valued research ties between our nations.”

Photo of the Qatar-Italy collaboration team

Alessandro Prunas, the Ambassador of Italy to the State of Qatar, believes that the joint efforts of top Italian and Qatari medical and research centres can make a real difference and save lives. He says:

“Scientific research has become a fundamental aspect of our bilateral, long-lasting cooperation, and I am confident that Italy and Qatar will soon further strengthen their commitment to developing new projects that unlock the untapped potential in this sector.”

The plasma from Qatar was collected from patients at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), with Qatar Foundation facilitating and supervising the collaboration between HMC’s Infectious Diseases Research Department and Mater Olbia Hospital.

The treatment of diseases by antibody therapy has been used for over 100 years, including in the battle against bacterial and viral infections such as pneumonia, meningitis, and measles. So far, HMC’s use of plasma therapy on COVID-19 patients has yielded ‘promising’ results, according to a spokesperson.

The use of CP has also been showing positive results in cases across the world. However, there is not enough data to prove its consistent, reliable effectiveness. That’s why the research carried out by Qatar and Italy could provide an urgently awaited lifeline to thousands.

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