A treatment for people suffering from COVID-19 is being tested at Genesis Health System. It’s called convalescent plasma therapy, where the plasma from a recently-recovered COVID-19 patient is then transfused into a patient currently fighting the virus.
The Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center (MVRBC) recently started collecting plasma from recovered patients. As of Thursday, April 16, Genesis had started this treatment for two patients who have tested positive for COVID-19. This is part of a Mayo Clinic clinical trial.
While this isn’t a new type of treatment, this is the first time it’s being used in COVID-19 patients. It’s been used previously to help treat diseases like polio, measles, SARS, Ebola and H1N1.
Those who have successfully fought off COVID-19 have built up antibodies in their blood that can stand up against the virus. Collecting those antibodies via plasma may help diagnosed patients boost their ability to fight the virus themselves.
“The immediate goal is to determine if convalescent plasma can improve the chance of recovery for people with the most severe illness,” read a statement from Genesis. “A second goal is to test whether convalescent plasma can help keep people who are moderately sick from becoming sicker.”
Infectious disease specialist, Dr. Louis Katz said that though this therapy’s success in fighting COVID-19 is unproven, medical personnel “are hopeful.”
“There are historic precedents that suggest modest efficacy in a number of other infectious diseases, including influenza,” he said. “Plasma is used routinely in transfusion, where it has an excellent safety profile that we expect to be maintained with this product. Very preliminary data from China suggests that will be the case, but as yet there are no valid clinical outcome studies of convalescent plasma for COVID-19.”
For people to provide convalescent plasma, donors have to be completely over the COVID-19 infection. According to the MVRBC, to be eligible, donors must have a laboratory-confirmed test that they were diagnosed with COVID-19. They musts be at least 14 days from the last day they were experiencing symptoms. Donors also must be referred to the MVRBC by their doctor.