Why US Hospitals See Promising Results In The Plasma Of New Coronavirus Patients | World | New


By Deena Beasley

(Reuters) – US hospitals desperate to help very ill patients with COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, attempt a treatment first used in the 1890s that relies on blood plasma given by cured patients.

People who survive an infectious disease like COVID-19 usually end up with blood that contains antibodies or proteins made by the body’s immune system to fight a virus. The blood component that carries the antibodies can be collected and given to newly infected patients – it is known as “convalescent plasma”.

More than 275,000 Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, and epidemiologists say hundreds of thousands of people are more likely to have the disease.

To help match donors to hospitals, the AABB, formerly the American Association of Blood Banks, released guidelines for plasma collection this week. The American Red Cross has also launched an online registry for potential donors.

On Friday, the United States Food and Drug Administration announced an “expanded access” program for convalescent plasma, coordinated by the Mayo Clinic of Rochester, Minnesota, to facilitate the collection and use of plasma by hospitals across the country.


“Historically it has worked,” said Dr. Jeffrey Henderson, associate professor of medicine and molecular microbiology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “Before having vaccines, it was used for infectious diseases like measles and diphtheria.”

Convalescent plasma was also used successfully during the 1918 flu pandemic, he said.

Doctors say protocols, such as dosage, are still uncertain for COVID-19 patients, but they think the method is worth trying, at least until a COVID vaccine or treatment -19 effective is developed.

The Mayo Clinic and other US sites are conducting a clinical study. Similar trials are underway in other countries where the virus has struck and some data has started to emerge.

In a China trial, virus levels in five seriously ill COVID-19 patients were undetectable after plasma transfusions, according to study results published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


The process involves taking blood from a donor – in this case, someone who has recovered COVID-19 but is generally healthy and meets other criteria for donating blood – and passes it through a machine for extracting plasma. The remaining blood returns to the donor.

The process takes up to 90 minutes and the plasma from a single donor can be used to treat three or four patients.

Donors must have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and must wait a defined period of time after testing negative for the disease before donating plasma. Tests are also being developed to measure the volume of antibodies.

Centers, including Houston Methodist Hospital and several New York City hospitals, which have been severely affected, have used experimental experimental treatment for severely COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Timothy Byun, hematologist / oncologist at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange, California, administered his first patient COVID-19 on Wednesday. He said the patient was better, but it was too early to say whether the therapy was working.

St. Joseph, a 450-bed hospital, has no blood donation center and instead had to modify a dialysis machine to collect the donor’s plasma.

Prior to the plasma infusion, Byun’s patient had received several treatments, including hydroxychloroquine and the intravenous anti-inflammatory drug Actemra, but his condition worsened further.

Risks of plasma therapy may include infusion site reactions or other rare allergic reactions.

“Among the current treatment options, I think convalescent plasma offers the best chance of treatment effectiveness,” said Dr. Daniel McQuillen, infectious disease specialist at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, Massachusetts.

(History corrects the number of Americans infected to more than 275,000)

(Reporting by Deena Beasley; Editing by Leslie Adler)


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