BEIJING:A 65-year-old Chinese woman who fell seriously ill after being infected with the coronavirus made a startling recovery after being given stem cell therapy, according to a new study by Chinese scientists.
The patient had been fighting for her life in the intensive care unit at Baoshan Hospital in Kunming, the capital of southwest China’s Yunnan province, for nearly two weeks after contracting Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.
But according to a paper published by a team of researchers from Kunming University led by Dr Hu Min, just four days after being given her first shot of umbilical cord stem cells, the woman was back on her feet and able to walk.
“Although only one case was shown here, it could be very important and inspire similar clinical practices in treating critically ill Covid-19 patients,” said the study, which was published on Thursday on Chinaxiv.org, a platform for the release of scientific papers that have yet to be peer-reviewed.
The treatment “might be an ideal choice to be used or combined with other immune modulating agents”, it said.
The Yunnan case is one of 14 trials using stem cells to treat coronavirus patients in China, according to the World Health Organisation’s clinical trial database. While the technology remains controversial, there is hope among health authorities and medical professionals that it could become a lifesaver for critically ill patients.
The patient in Kunming arrived in the city on January 21 on a flight from Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province and the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak. A week later she fell ill with a mild fever, fatigue and coughing, so went to a public hospital where she tested positive for Covid-19. From there she was transferred to Baoshan Hospital.
Following the strict guidelines laid down by the government for the treatment of coronavirus patients, doctors there first administered antiviral medications and antibiotics, and put the woman – who also suffers from type 2 diabetes – on oxygen to help her breathe. Her condition improved initially but then went rapidly downhill and she was moved to the intensive care unit on February 1.
Things did not improve, and as the woman’s health worsened and her organs began to fail, the doctors needed to act fast. So, after consulting the hospital’s ethics committee and the patient’s family, the stem cell therapy was started on February 9.