Baptist COVID-19 plasma study expanding, donors needed

Henrietta Brewer
May 30, 2020

There are now 2 different approaches to using plasma to fight COVID-19.

"I've been a regular donor for many years and through my convalescent plasma that is full of antibodies, I hope I can help someone else", Louw said. According to the researchers, the antibody strategy is effective in other infections. The risks are known and comparatively low.

Ten weeks later, more than 16,000 patients at hundreds of USA hospitals have received the experimental therapy, and hope that it works could soon give way to evidence. The researchers at Mount Sinai are already creating plans to conduct a study involving 275 treated patients. But randomized controlled clinical trials (RCTs) that will give more definitive answers are still underway.

In January, doctors and researchers in China have begun experimenting convalescent plasma therapy in COVID-19 patients. Plasma treatments have also been used to treat other epidemics and infections such as measles, severe acute respiratory syndromes, and Argentine hemorrhagic fever. Less than three months later, more than 16,000 patients have received plasma from coronavirus survivors. "I think that it has a high likelihood [of working] based on history", Casadevall says.

The MemorialCare research team, led by Emanuel Ferro, MD, of Long Beach Medical Center, will collect and provide data for the Expanded Access Program while providing convalescent plasma therapy to critically ill COVID-19 patients. Both can lead to difficulty breathing and death.

The shortage of COVID-19 tests means millions of people have not been tested and don't know whether they've had the virus.

Researchers have also started studying the therapy's safety. The campaign aims to get tens of thousands of recovered COVID-19 patients to donate blood plasma.

"If there is a second wave, we're going to need every last bit of convalescent plasma", Lee said.

With her appointment scheduled for May 11, Pappas was one of the first to donate plasma at that Red Cross location, Tap reported. A US paper looking only at the therapy's safety in the first 5000 patients found 36 severe adverse events, including TRALI and TACO cases, but some may have been the result of COVID-19 itself.

While the data showed promise, experts believe more rigorous clinical trials are needed. Together with several partners, Takeda is working to produce a product called hyperimmune globulin, for which the blood of hundreds of recovered patients is pooled and the antibodies concentrated about 10-fold.

Alessandro Giardini, 46, has the highest antibody level in his plasma measured so far in a trial - around 40 times that of the average patient.

Now there is no proven treatment to improve the outcome for these patients.

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