Two S. Korea hospitals in clinical studies of plasma therapy for MERS

Clinical studies of an experimental plasma therapy to treat Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) are underway in two South Korea hospitals, according to news agency reports, citing the country's health ministry.

Business World, citing Reuters and Agence France-Presse, said that Kwon Jun-wook, head of the country's ministry of public health policy, said that the plasma-based treatment has been administered to two consenting patients with MERS.

"There is insufficient clinical basis about the result of plasma treatment among experts in the country," Jun-wook stated, according to Business World. He added that "the ministry has deep confidence in the medical staff on the direction of the treatment."

The article quoted Jun-wook as saying that plasma therapy was previously found to reduce death rates by up to 23% among patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome.

A separate story in Singapore's Today said that South Korea reported 8 new cases of MERS on Wednesday, with one more death this week, bringing to 20 the number of fatalities in the outbreak that began last month.

A total of 162 people in South Korea have been infected in the outbreak, the largest outside Saudi Arabia, Today said. The outbreak has been traced to a 68-year-old South Korean man who returned from a business trip to the Middle East in early May.

On Monday, South Korea moved to reopen schools shut last week on concerns of a wider spread of MERS even as governments in the region kept up precautions, including screening at airports.

- here are stories from Business World and Today