After recovery: Hospitals seeking plasma donations from coronavirus survivors

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Coronavirus: What is convalescent plasma therapy treatment?

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

People who have recovered from COVID-19 are donating convalescent plasma to hospitals nationwide to help in the treatment of those infected by the virus.

The new treatment method may allow access to that plasma for hospitalized patients infected with the novel coronavirus who have severe or life-threatening COVID-19, or who may be at high risk for progression to severe or life-threatening disease. Once they have registered on the protocol and given informed consent, patients may receive one unit of convalescent plasma obtained from an individual who has recovered from a proven case of infection with the coronavirus.

The Community Blood Center’s new COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Program launched April 10. Through the initiative, COVID-19 survivors who have documentation that they tested positive for COVID-19 and are now symptom-free for at least 14 days may be able to donate plasma. Potential candidates must be at least 18 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds, be in generally good health and feeling well.

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“The plasma from someone who has recently been infected by COVID-19 has antibodies that may be able to fight the infection,” said Dr. James Alexander, Community Blood Center’s medical director. “The No. 1 criteria is that someone has tested positive for COVID-19 and has been clear of all symptoms for two weeks. Their physician must determine they meet the criteria before they schedule an appointment to donate.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on March 24 authorized the emergency use of convalescent plasma, which shows potential as a treatment for the disease, by physicians for patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections, or those deemed to be at high risk. Although more research is needed in determining the effectiveness of plasma donated by those who have recovered from the virus, some evidence suggests that plasma donations can help recipients develop their own antibodies.

“People of all blood types are needed for this effort,” said Dr. Roberto Colón, system vice president of quality and safety, Premier Health. “We encourage providers in the ICU, hospitals and primary care providers with patients recovering from COVID-19 to follow up with their patients and make them aware of this opportunity. By donating convalescent plasma, a donor will be potentially able to save the lives of several COVID-19 patients. Because there is not an established effective treatment, this therapy will be of particular benefit to those who have more severe disease manifestations.”

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Premier Health and CompuNet are providing pre-screening services for this program, with Premier Health's foundations covering the cost, to help build a large registry of potential donors. For more information about the convalescent plasma donation criteria or to make a donation to support the foundations in this initiative, visit www.premierhealth.com/covid19plasma.

Community Blood Center is collecting, processing and distributing the plasma. Plasma will be used both for current cases at all local hospitals served by Community Blood Center, as well as stored for future use.

Premier Health is the first health system in the nation to enroll a COVID-19 positive patient in this therapeutic treatment using that institution’s protocols, according to the Mayo Clinic.

To be a potential CCP donor you must meet all standard screening criteria for blood donation, as well as pass the additional FDA criteria, which includes aA previous diagnosis of coronavirus documented by a laboratory or doctor’s note and evidence of a lack of infection through testing or when one month has passed from complete resolution of symptoms.

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COVID-19 survivors who are interested in donating plasma may sign up for the convalescent plasma registry or the Community Blood Center registry at www.GivingBlood.org.

CCP donor Steve Norris said his symptoms started with a cough. He was tested for COVID-19 at UD Arena. By the time he learned he was positive for the virus he was nearly recovered. He said he learned about donating from a Facebook post about the plight of COVID-19 patient Dr. Mukul Chandra, medical director of cardiac preventive care and research at Miami Valley Hospital.

“It’s good to be able to do something with this,” Norris said. “We hear all about the negative aspects of COVID and there’s plenty of them. But those who have recovered might have something in their blood to help people who are really, really sick. No sense in waiting when there are people really sick and dying.”

Hoxworth Blood Center at the University of Cincinnati, is working closely with the FDA to collect and distribute convalescent plasma from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 through Greater Cincinnati’s Hospitals.

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“In initial cases, patients with severe COVID-19 who have been treated with convalescent plasma have shown improvement, but more research is needed,” said Dr. Moises Huaman(CQ), assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Internal Medicine at the UC College of Medicine, a UC health physician, and the local principal investigator on this protocol. “With no other approved treatment options currently available, this therapy is worth exploring, especially for the sickest COVID-19 patients.”

As the only steward of the local blood supply, Hoxworth Blood Center will support all hospitals in the region seeking this therapy, according to Dr. David Oh, Hoxworth’s chief medical officer.

“This type of therapy is more than 100 years old and was used during the 1918 flu pandemic, a time when antiviral drugs and most vaccines did not exist,” Dr. Oh said. “This approach was used for polio, measles and mumps.”

Donors to Hoxworth must be at least 17 years old or 16 with parental consent, feeling generally well and healthy, and have no active cold or flu symptoms. To schedule a donation, call 513-451-0910 or visit www.hoxworth.org. Appointments are required to maintain social distancing protocol.

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