LAHORE (Tabassum Zehra): Many researches are in process to find a cure for COVID-19, a disease that has put the whole world in a frenzy. After a long period of hopelessness, a ray of hope can be seen in the form of purified blood plasma where the blood of already cured people is used as a medicine for those who are infected. Japanese drug maker Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. said that it was developing a new coronavirus drug derived from the blood plasma of people who have recovered from COVID-19 which proves that the best medicine for COVID is in the blood of the cured people. Now the question arises that from where will we get the blood of these people in large amounts which leads us to the pilgrims coming from Iran and Iraq to Pakistan. Reliable sources informed that from amongst the 5,506 pilgrims, also called zaireen, that have entered the border since 28 February to 29 March 2020 many were positive and then afterwards they turned negative thus based on the blood plasma research the donated blood of these zaireen can be used to cure hundreds and thousands of people who have contracted the COVID-19.
According to details, when it comes to creating treatments of this disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the first line of defense may be a century old technology i.e. purified blood plasma. The method of using “convalescent serum” which is essentially harvesting virus- fighting antibodies from the blood of previously infected patients may be the best cure for COVID- 19. This approach is based on the idea that antibodies developed by recovered patients might strengthen the immune system of new patients as seen in history where plasma-derived therapy was used to treat patients during the Ebola outbreak and avian flu. People who have recovered from a disease have permanent antibodies generated by the immune system floating in their blood plasma, the liquid component of blood. To turn that into drug the plasma is harvested, tested for safety and purified to isolate those protective antibodies. When injected into new patient the plasma derived therapy also known as convalescent plasma, provides passive immunity until the patient’s immune system can generate its own antibodies. Several teams have been working on such an effort, following early reports of testing from china. A Beijing-based company called AnyGo Technology has provided 50,000 tests to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and to hospitals in Wuhan, Beijing and shanghai, according to its founder, Dr. Le Sun. Furthermore, Dr.Shangen Zheng, a doctor with the Chinese military, said that his team had treated more than ten patients so far, and data from many more patients treated with plasma in Hubei Province is being assessed.
Many researches have been done in other directions as well without positive results and purified blood plasma remains the best direction to move towards. Researchers have tried to create many vaccines but to no avail. Vaccines basically work by teaching the body to make its own antibodies to an infectious agent without the person ever becoming infected. This is why they are among the most powerful weapons in public health. Porges, who worked at Merck’s vaccine division in the 1990s, said he thinks that creating vaccine might be harder than companies expect, because this new virus is just not well enough understood. “You kind of need to have some fundamental understanding of the immunology and the virus before you can develop the vaccine, “he said. “It’s not clear to me that we have that.” Thus, until now purified blood plasma seems like the best plan of action against COVID-19.
In a paper published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation Dr.Arturo Casadevall, chair of the molecular microbiology and immunology department at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, argued that collecting blood serum or plasma from previously infected people might be the best hope for treating severe cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.
Essentially, antibodies extracted from the blood of recovered patients are injected in those who are ill thus finding people with powerful antibody responses might help point the way to curing thousands of people.
This leads us to thousands of pilgrims who have entered Pakistan from Iran and Iraq where a large number of them contracted the virus but were completely cured of the disease without much display of strong symptoms and zero reported deaths which is proof of their strong antibody response towards the virus making their blood the best potential cure for the disease.
If we match the timelines and death rates of countries where the pandemic started at similar time we can see the vast difference as the deaths in other countries is exceeding four digits whereas there has currently been no news of death due to coronavirus amongst the pilgrims.
Amongst the very first cases of Pakistan, Mukhtar Himani returned from a pilgrimage from Iran on 20 February 2020 with some symptoms of COVID -19 which coincides with the first cases of the disease in Italy which was on 20 February 2020, Iran 19 February 2020, Spain which confirmed its cases on 24 February 2020 and others but there is a vast difference in causalities.
Comparison of deaths from COVID-19 from initial cases on 20 February 2020 till 29 March 2020
If we analyze this graph, we can see that in all of the countries mentioned, the death toll is above the four digits whereas there is no news of deaths from among the zaireen and the figure remains zero till filing of this report. It is argued that there was one death among the zaireen but it was confirmed from sources that the cause of death was not due to the virus but was due to having a heart attack thus proven that there were no news of deaths among the zaireen due to coronavirus. Countries mentioned above contracted the virus at approximately the same time so the pattern of deaths should have been similar with the zaireen and the deaths should have been in hundreds but after research it was confirmed that there is no news of any deaths due to the virus among zaireen that were infected and many of them have already been self-cured after showing none to mild symptoms and have returned to their homes healthy.
After the emergence of the first two cases in Pakistan, the government started to work towards the controlling and management of the disease and while these safety measures were being ensured the problem of returning pilgrims from Iran and Iraq ballooned. All the returnees from Iran and Iraq were quarantined together at a camp in Taftan after crossing the border. Those with symptoms were not isolated and instead of containing the virus, it spread to others at the camp. After two weeks, they were returned to their provinces where they were retested and re quarantined at the centers created in those provinces.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr.Zafar Mirza, after reviewing the situation mentioned in a tweet on 28.03.2020 ”A correction with ref to what I said in the press conf. today. Here are the correct numbers: out of a total 6589 quarantined so far in Pakistan (including Zaireen from Iran), 2500 results have been finalized, 588(24%) have tested +ve for COVID while 1,912 (76%) tested -ve”
Among this figure of 6589 majority of the people are pilgrims who have returned from Iran and Iraq as the number of returnees reported from the borders is in thousands and among those thousands of people, 24% of the populace were infected since all the people returning were kept in same place with very harsh living conditions.
We received reports from people volunteering in the provincial quarantine centers which prove that amongst the thousands of zaireen there has been no news of deaths yet and almost no one among them even after being tested positive for COVID showed no symptoms of being critical and rarely had very mild flu like symptoms.
Dr.Faheem Abbas who is working as Chief Nursing Superintendent in Bolan Medical Complex Hospital in Quetta was also helping the zaireen as a social worker from the very early stages at the border in Taftan from where the pilgrims entered and were quarantined. He informed that 5506 zaireen crossed the border from Iran from 28 February 2020 till 29 march 2020 .He stated that a majority of the zaireen were quarantined in Taftan before being sent to their provinces where they stayed under very harsh conditions but almost none of the people showed strong symptoms of the disease and there was only one death among the zaireen which was not caused by contracting COVID.
Many of the zaireen who were tested negative were retested in their provinces and were re quarantined again in the centers made in those provinces.
Sardar Ali Rizvi who is a Deputy Prosecutor General Sindh posted at Sukkur High Court Bench since 2009 as well as is a trustee of Central Mosque Hyder Shah Haqani Rohri updated about the situation of zaireen at the quarantine center in Sukkur. He informed that the first batch of zaireen consisting of 296 people on 14 March 2020 and the second batch consisting 640 arrived on 19 March 2020, further 65 people came on 28 March 2020 out of these 151 were tested positive. He also stated that the quarantine center had a total of 500 zaireen present in the center on 29 March 2020 out of which 293 were tested positive while the rest were negative or awaiting results, out of these almost none showed critical symptoms while most of them did not even show mild cough and flu and there is no news of death till date.
Senator Murtaza Wahab also confirmed that multiple zaireen have been cured and have showed negative for the disease after retesting and have already returned to their homes.
Interestingly, a close contact of the Prime Minister and also former spokesperson of Punjab Chief Minister, Dr. Shahbaz Gill has also confirmed in no uncertain terms on 31 March 2020 that there were zero deaths among the zaireen.
The zaireen had been kept in Taftan for more than 14 days and under very harsh conditions but they showed none to mild symptoms of the disease and there were no fatalities from COVID-19 among them and they recovered without any problems creating antibodies to fight the virus. There were many aged as well as children among the pilgrims and many of them already had a history of many various diseases but still they were able to come out of this unscathed and without any visible symptoms of the disease showing the ability to generate powerful antibodies to fight the disease created by coronavirus. A glaring example of this is Mukhtar Himani, who as mentioned before, was one of the first case of the disease in Pakistan. While talking to Customs Today, he informed that he is 63 years of age and he returned to Pakistan by air on 20 February 2020 after his pilgrimage to Iran. He stated that he had a mild flu when he returned but there were no critical symptoms. Even when he was tested positive for the disease there were no strong symptoms to make the disease apparent and he did not have fever or any other conditions during the fourteen days he was kept in the hospital. His previous history of asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure as well as having a heart bypass did not aggravate the coronavirus disease and his time in the quarantine was smooth sailing. After he was kept quarantined for fourteen days, he was retested and the results showed that he had been cured.
All of the above mentioned is proof that the pilgrims who were tested positive had powerful antibody response towards the virus that helped them in creating the required antibodies to fight the coronavirus without any problems. It is as if they have already been given a natural vaccine that helped them fight the disease with such efficiency and effectiveness even after encountering such harsh environment.
People tend to get ill when met with harsh environment, during climatic changes, during travelling, unfavorable living conditions, under stress etc. but the pilgrims returning from Iran had been kept in very harsh environments with scarce resources and still did not get severely ill while only some showing mild symptoms. One of the pilgrim noha khwan Muslim Mehdavi, who was kept in Taftan is reported to have said that there were more than 3000 zaireen in the same place at one time and only 20 makeshift tent toilets were available having very long queues, also the hygiene conditions were horrible which could have given rise to many other diseases. The crowd also included pregnant women, infants, heart patients and elderly who had difficulty coping with the harsh living conditions. In addition, there were people who had other diseases and were out of stock of medicines but could not find the required medicines there. The climate was also very harsh and it was very cold near the end of February but there was no availability of proper shelter, and meals were also not provided properly. Another person quarantined in Taftan stated after being released from the center that he felt like he had been released from prison, as they did not get even the necessary items required.
All of the conditions mentioned by the sources are situations where a person becomes most prone to contracting horrible and very harmful diseases but it is not less than a miracle that they neither displayed critical symptoms of the COVID-19 that has panicked everyone across the globe, nor was there any news of deaths among the zaireen who were held in all of the quarantine centers.
All of the details mentioned show a potential plan of action against the COVID-19 thus the leaders of today like the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan, the President of Italy Sergio Mattarella, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as well as the leaders of other countries hit by COVID-19 should make this as a basis for further research as this is a potential solution that the world is searching.
These zaireen have now become an asset whose donated blood can be used for curing the people contracting COVID-19. They have already contracted and have been self-cured of the disease creating antibodies that can fight against the virus while purifying the blood plasma of those infected using plasma-derived therapy.
— Research and Written By Tabassum Zehra