Few to no treatments are available to COVID-19 patients other than supportive care and a handful of unproven drugs, all still in the trial stages. One of the potential remedies under study at Cottage Health is blood plasma replete with antibodies from a patient who has recovered from the coronavirus. It’s only been tried with patients who are the most critically ill. “Most have recovered or are recovering,” said. Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, an infectious disease specialist, “but not all.
“Unfortunately, there is always the risk of the illness progressing despite this treatment,” the doctor said. Ten patients have been treated since the therapy with convalescent plasma was instituted on April 20. “Our patients have done well with the short transfusions themselves,” she noted, “and for some patients, we feel we have seen benefit.”
Cottage and its Health Research Institute are forging the new protocol as part of a large national collaborative through the Mayo Clinic Expanded Access program. Dr. Fitzgibbons’s hope was that the partnerships and collective learning would find positive benefits of the plasma.
At times, an obstacle has been to obtain the right type of plasma. “AB plasma, which is the universal blood type for plasma (compared to O blood type in red cells), is hard to come by,” explained Xaviera Ramon, who is Cottage’s transfusion safety coordinator. “Getting type specific is the next best thing, and that can be at times challenging,” she said. A strong relationship with their supplier helps Cottage get products that aren’t in-house, Ramon added.
When Cottage announced it would pursue this treatment, it requested participation by COVID survivors. More than 400 people have recovered in the county and can volunteer by contacting the blood service company Vitalant. You must be symptom free for at least two weeks prior to donating blood. Go to vitalant.org/covidfree or call (866) 287-5762 to participate.
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