Convalescent plasma for sale on Egypt’s black market

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The Egyptian authorities’ attempts to combat the coronavirus using blood plasma have launched a black market for plasma bags from recovered patients to newly infected patients. The plasma bags were illegally traded, reaching more than EGP 20,000 ($1,200) per pack.

The Egyptian authorities seek to use recovered patients’ plasma, that is, the recovered patients’ blood full of antibodies. The basic idea is to take plasma from recovered patients and inject it into other patients to give them an immune boost that helps fight the same infection.

On the other hand, a member of the Egyptian parliament called for the criminalisation of this practice, especially after al-Azhar affirmed that it is not permissible under Islamic law to trade in plasma. The use of plasma to treat COVID-19 does not win the consensus of scientists. Still, supporters say the plasma has proven effective in studies to treat other infectious diseases, including Ebola and SARS.

The director of the National Centre for Blood Transfusion in Egypt, Ehab Serag Eldin, said in press statements that he believed blood plasma was a promising treatment until an effective vaccine was found. Since April, Egypt has launched a campaign urging more than 78,000 recovering patients to donate plasma. Donors must be between 18 and 60 years old, weigh at least 50 kg, and have a specific antibody type.

The number of blood plasma (legal) donors recovering from coronavirus in Egypt has reached only about 200 people so far.