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.
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.
“There was a general sense of being really tired, some chills … loss of appetite,” Andrew said.
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).
“We were all fairly lucky. No one died, which, honestly, is a huge win,” Andrew said.
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.
“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.
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.
If proven, Canadian Blood Services chief scientist Dana Devine said the method could provide a stopgap before a vaccine is widely available.
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.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
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.