Long COVID patients are seeking experimental ‘blood washing’ treatment abroad, investigation finds


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1000’s of individuals experiencing the debilitating signs of lengthy COVID are touring overseas to hunt pricey however unproven remedies reminiscent of “blood washing,” based on an investigation carried out by The BMJ and ITV Information and launched at present.
Sufferers are touring to non-public clinics in Cyprus, Germany and Switzerland for apheresis—a blood filtering remedy usually used for sufferers with lipid issues that haven’t responded to medication—and anti-clotting remedy.
However specialists query whether or not these invasive therapies must be supplied with out ample proof.
As a part of the investigation, ITV Information visited a non-public clinic in Cyprus and spoke to its co-founder Marcus Klotz and several other sufferers.
The World Well being Group (WHO) has estimated that between 10% and 20% of sufferers undergo signs for no less than two months after an acute COVID-19 an infection—a phenomenon generally often called lengthy COVID.
Based on the newest official knowledge, as of Might 1, there have been almost two million individuals within the UK self-reporting lengthy COVID signs, which may embrace fatigue, muscle weak point, respiration and sleep difficulties, reminiscence issues, anxiousness or despair, chest pains, and lack of odor or style.
At present, there isn’t any internationally agreed remedy pathway for the situation.
Apheresis entails needles being put into every arm and the blood is handed over a filter, separating the purple blood cells from the plasma. The plasma is filtered earlier than being recombined with the purple blood cells and returned to the physique by way of a special vein.
The investigation consists of particulars of people that have tried the remedy, reminiscent of Gitte Boumeester, a trainee psychiatrist in Almelo, the Netherlands, who, after catching the virus, developed extreme lengthy COVID signs. She was pressured to stop her job in November 2021, after two failed makes an attempt to return to work.
Boumeester realized of the “blood-washing” remedy of apheresis from a Fb group for lengthy COVID sufferers.
After visiting The Lengthy COVID Heart in Cyprus to obtain the remedy, at a price of greater than €50,000 (£42,376), she returned dwelling with no enchancment to her signs. She acquired six rounds of apheresis, in addition to 9 rounds of hyperbaric oxygen remedy, and an intravenous vitamin drip on the non-public Poseidonia clinic, subsequent door to the Heart.
Boumeester was requested to signal a consent kind on the Lengthy COVID Heart earlier than present process apheresis, which legal professionals and clinicians described as insufficient.

She was additionally suggested to purchase hydroxychloroquine as an early remedy bundle in case she was reinfected with COVID-19, regardless of a Cochrane evaluation printed in March 2021 concluding that it’s “unlikely” the drug has a profit within the prevention of COVID-19.
Marcus Klotz, co-founder of the Lengthy COVID Heart advised The BMJ, “We as a clinic neither promote, nor promote. We settle for sufferers which have microcirculation points and wish to be handled with HELP apheresis…If a affected person wants a prescription, it’s individually assessed by our physician or the affected person is referred to different specialised docs the place wanted.”
A spokesperson for the Poseidonia clinic mentioned all remedies supplied are “at all times based mostly on medical and scientific analysis by our docs and scientific nutritionist, prognosis by way of blood exams with lab comply with ups as per good medical apply.”
Whereas some docs and researchers imagine apheresis and anticoagulation medication could also be promising remedies for lengthy COVID, others fear determined sufferers are spending life-changing sums on invasive, unproven remedies.
Shamil Haroon, scientific lecturer in main care on the College of Birmingham and a researcher on the Therapies for Lengthy COVID in Non-hospitalized sufferers (TLC) trial, believes such “experimental” remedy ought to solely be executed within the context of a scientific trial.
“It is unsurprising that individuals who had been beforehand extremely functioning, who are actually debilitated, cannot work, cannot financially help themselves, would search remedies elsewhere,” he says.
“It is a fully rational response to a state of affairs like this. However individuals might doubtlessly go bankrupt accessing these remedies, for which there’s restricted to no proof of effectiveness.”
In February of final yr, Dr. Beate Jaeger, an inside medication physician, started treating lengthy COVID sufferers with apheresis at her clinic in Mulheim, Germany, after studying reviews that COVID causes points with blood clotting. She advised The BMJ she has now handled 1000’s in her clinic, with success tales spreading on social media and by phrase of mouth.
Jaeger accepts that the remedy is experimental for lengthy COVID, however mentioned trials take too lengthy when the pandemic has left sufferers desperately ailing.
The North Rhine Medical Affiliation, which examines whether or not docs have violated their skilled code of conduct, advised The BMJ it has not acquired any complaints about Jaeger or her clinic from sufferers or different organizations however will examine if it does.
The investigation additionally discovered that apheresis and related journey prices are so costly that sufferers are establishing fundraising pages on web sites like GoFundMe as a way to elevate the cash.
Chris Witham, a 45-year-old businessman and lengthy COVID sufferer from Bournemouth who spent round £7,000 on apheresis remedy (together with journey and lodging prices) in Kempten, Germany, final yr, says, “I would have offered my home and given it away to get higher, and not using a second thought.”
Current analysis has urged that “microclots” current within the plasma of individuals with lengthy COVID may very well be chargeable for lengthy COVID signs. However specialists contacted by The BMJ and ITV Information mentioned extra analysis is required to know how microclots kind and whether or not they’re inflicting lengthy COVID signs.
Others are additionally involved in regards to the lack of comply with up take care of sufferers once they depart clinics after being prescribed anticoagulation medication.
Robert Ariens, professor of vascular biology on the College of Leeds Faculty of Drugs, says, “They [microclots] could also be a biomarker for illness, however how do we all know they’re causal?”
He believes the clinics providing apheresis and anticoagulation remedy are prematurely offering remedy based mostly on a speculation that wants extra scientific analysis.
“If we do not know the mechanisms by which the microclots kind and whether or not or not they’re causative of illness, it appears untimely to design a remedy to take the microclots away, as each apheresis and triple anticoagulation aren’t with out dangers, the plain one being bleeding,” he provides.

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Extra info:
Lengthy covid sufferers journey overseas for costly and experimental “blood-washing” remedy, The BMJ (2022). DOI: 10.1136/bmj.o1671

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British Medical Journal

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Lengthy COVID sufferers are in search of experimental ‘blood washing’ remedy overseas, investigation finds (2022, July 12)
retrieved 12 July 2022
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