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University at Buffalo, WNY hospitals seek COVID-19 plasma donors

Doctors want to see if plasma from people who have recovered from coronavirus can be used to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The University at Buffalo and some local hospitals have a message to people who have recovered from coronavirus.

They want you to donate your plasma, which can be used in an effort to treat patients who have the virus and are critically ill.

Medical experts say people who have recovered from the coronavirus have antibodies in their plasma that can fight the virus.

It's not 100 percent proven. But still, UB, Kaleida Health and Erie County Medical Center want to hear from people who have recovered. 

"Those antibodies can hopefully control the virus and those are in the plasma so, before we had antibiotics these things were tried and succeeded in certain situations," said Dr. Sanjay Sethi, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine in the Jacobs School.

Late last week, UB's Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences launched a local effort to identify COVID-19 plasma donors. 

This is part of a national effort that's been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and being led by the Mayo Clinic.

So far, UB says it has heard from more than 200 people, who have recovered from the virus and are interested in donating.

Experts are looking for people who don't have symptoms and are at least 17 years old.

"They have to have a positive COVID diagnosis with a swab, the reason for that there are a lot of people who have not been tested for the swab, we want to make sure that they had the infection to make sure that the plasma we're collecting would have the antibodies that we need," Sethi said. 

The process of extracting plasma from the blood is about 2 to 3 hours. 

The plasma will be used on the more vulnerable COVID-19 patients at Buffalo General, Millard Fillmore Suburban and ECMC.

Roswell Park and Catholic Health is also treating coronavirus patients with plasma. 

All of this is being done, as researchers work on a vaccine for COVID-19.

"This is investigational, but we are hoping that it will make a difference at least for some of those patients so it has to be kept in that context not as a magic cure because too much of this magic cure stuff is going around," Sethi said.

People who are eligible and are interested in donating, need to fill out an online screening form to start the process.

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