H1N1 Plasma Treatment Raises Concern in China
H1N1 Plasma Treatment Raises Concern in China

Two women wear masks while riding on the Beijing subway on December 2, 2009. Serum or plasma from people who have recovered from the H1N1 virus is being used to treat patients in China who are in a serious condition with the virus. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)
Two women wear masks while riding on the Beijing subway on December 2, 2009. Serum or plasma from people who have recovered from the H1N1 virus is being used to treat patients in China who are in a serious condition with the virus. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)
If you live in China and have recovered from H1N1, the Chinese regime wants your blood.

Serum or plasma from people who have recovered from the H1N1 virus is being used to treat patients in China who are in a serious condition with the virus. The practice is causing concern among experts and hospital staff, and some suggest that officials are using the opportunity to collect blood to make money later on.

Plasma therapy is not considered safe enough to be used as a routine treatment, according to Li Xingwang, associate team leader of China’s H1N1 treatment team appointed by the Ministry of Public Health and director of the Infection Center for Beijing Ditan Hospital.

Dr. Xiaolin Lin, a virologist and preventative medicine specialist for the U.S. Army, agrees. “There is no wide evidence to support plasma therapy,” he said. One report of a successful case of plasma therapy on a patient with H5N1 avian flu in 2006 in Guangxi Province is the only available case, Lin said.

Lin said the Chinese Ministry of Health included in their H1N1 treatment protocols, the use of plasma therapy as a last resort. Recovered patients carry antibodies for the virus in their plasma.

“There are only two reasons to use plasma therapy,” he said. “The virus is too widespread, or it has mutated.”

Lin said plasma therapy was used 100 years ago, before antivirus and antibiotic drugs were available—which are cheaper and should be able to control the virus. Nowadays, plasma is mostly used for treating diseases like hemophilia, a blood deficiency.

The call for blood concerns Lin—collecting large amounts of it can be difficult and costly.

Storing the plasma is a hit and miss game too, he said. It is also “terribly unhygienic,” according to Human Rights in China (HRIC), an NGO. Putting blood from many people together greatly increases the risk of infection. Pathogens or HIV from one batch of blood can infect hundreds, or thousands, of others.

This is what happened a decade ago when the Henan local government promoted the blood selling business. It caused a massive spread of AIDS across the province.

Now, the Henan Province Red Cross Blood Center is reportedly encouraging more people who have recovered from H1N1 to donate their blood.

A worker in Henan Center said that more people have donated blood since the implementation of plasma treatment. “Every day the center receives 60 to 70, even 100 volunteers sometimes, for blood donation,” the worker said.

The Chinese regime hasn’t told the public the true reason behind the latest blood collection push, according to Dr. Lin, the virologist. A barrel of blood at wholesale prices can go for over $20,000 in China, and after processing could be up to $60,000, according to a 2008 HRIC report. Dr. Lin said the authorities may be using the opportunity to get blood from citizens for other purposes such as general emergencies, “they are always short of blood.”

A staff member in the Wuhan Disease Control Center in Hubei Province said that plasma treatment is not mature enough, and hospitals in most provinces expressed reservations about it.

“The technology of using plasma from patients who had recovered from H1N1 to treat patients is under development,” he said, not wishing to be named. “Many hospitals have stopped this kind of treatment while other ones were still adopting this technology.”

Mr. Li, who works in the Liaocheng City Disease Control Center in Shandong Province, said the blood would be provided to patients in critical condition. He did not specify if these critical conditions were related to H1N1.

Those eligible to donate their blood plasma include patients who have been released from a hospital for more than a week, anyone who received treatment at home and who has been healthy for two weeks, and people who have received a vaccination for the H1N1 virus in the last one to three months.

The criteria were listed in the Ministry of Public Health’s provisional regulations about management of blood collection on recovered H1N1 patients, Dec. 9.

Ms. Miao, a Buddhist nurse who founded several initiatives to work with dying AIDS patients in Guangdong Province, told Sound of Hope (SOH) Radio, “The project can bring money to the Communist Party and medical systems. That is why the government promotes these treatments. They never care about the lives of the people. As long as they can make money, the governments and the hospitals will work in collaboration with each other. Most Chinese people are willing to put profit above anything else under this situation.”

Additional reporting by Lin Li and Ka Di, Sound of Hope Radio.

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