Advertisement

Saskatoon man recovered from COVID-19 donates plasma for coronavirus treatment trial

Click to play video 'Saskatoon man recovered from COVID-19 donates plasma for coronavirus treatment trial' Saskatoon man recovered from COVID-19 donates plasma for coronavirus treatment trial
WATCH: Andrew Elchuk is the first person in Saskatchewan to enter a trial examining convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients.

A Saskatoon man hopes the antibodies in his blood may help others who contracted the novel coronavirus, especially considering what COVID-19 did to his family.

Andrew Elchuk is the first person in Saskatchewan to enter the CONCOR-1 trial, which aims to assess whether plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients can be given to infected patients as a treatment for the disease.

READ MORE: Trudeau says he’ll get coronavirus antibody test once serological testing available

In early March, he visited Germany and Switzerland with his wife, mother and father. When they heard the Canadian government call its citizens home, they travelled back and went into self-isolation.

A few days in, coronavirus symptoms started to surface in all four travellers.

Story continues below advertisement

“There was a general sense of being really tired, some chills … loss of appetite,” Andrew said.

The Elchuk family poses for a picture in Switzerland (From left to right: Paul, Christine, Lindsey and Andrew).
The Elchuk family poses for a picture in Switzerland (From left to right: Paul, Christine, Lindsey and Andrew). Andrew Elchuk / Supplied

His symptoms were mild compared to what his father Paul experienced. With a temperature of roughly 40 degrees Celsius, Paul was rushed to hospital in an ambulance.

Andrew said at the time, the family wasn’t fully aware of how deadly the disease could be.

His father spent more than three weeks in hospital, including 11 days in the intensive care unit (ICU).

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Advocate says Saskatoon attack on boy caused by racism, white nationalism

“We were all fairly lucky. No one died, which, honestly, is a huge win,” Andrew said.

Story continues below advertisement

The family’s ordeal inspired Andrew to sign up for the antibody trial authorized by Health Canada and carried out with Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

“It’s worth it to do what I can to try and help just because it is such a terrible thing to deal with,” Andrew said.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus outbreak: Moderna vaccine candidate showing signs of success, will move to phase 2' Coronavirus outbreak: Moderna vaccine candidate showing signs of success, will move to phase 2
Coronavirus outbreak: Moderna vaccine candidate showing signs of success, will move to phase 2

Sixty hospitals are participating in the trial in Canada, which requires 800 patients to receive convalescent, or COVID-19-recovered, plasma. The first patient from the CONCOR-1 trial was infused in mid-May.

The idea is to determine if the plasma from a recovered person can be given someone early in the early days of a COVID-19 virus. In theory, a sick person’s immune system could get a boost, reducing hospital admissions and ICU cases.

Health Canada has not yet authorized convalescent plasma as a COVID-19 treatment.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Humboldt father’s cancer diagnosis spurs Saskatoon stem cell drive

If proven, Canadian Blood Services chief scientist Dana Devine said the method could provide a stopgap before a vaccine is widely available.

“Having identified [a vaccine] that works and having enough of it manufactured to treat the entire population are two very different things,” Devine said.

Future trials will look at convalescent plasma from pediatric patients and those who were among the sickest patients.

The timeline of the CONCOR trial is largely unknown, Devine said, and it could take as many as 12 months to finish.

Recovered patients interested in participating in the study can sign up on the Canadian Blood Services website.

Click to play video 'Update on VIDO-InterVac’s COVID-19 vaccine' Update on VIDO-InterVac’s COVID-19 vaccine
Update on VIDO-InterVac’s COVID-19 vaccine

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Story continues below advertisement

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

With files from Global’s Anna McMillan.