LIMA — Recovered COVID-19 patients are donating their plasma toward an experimental treatment that transplants their antibodies into the sickest patients, whose immune systems have not yet developed enough antibodies to fend off the disease on their own.
That experimental treatment will soon be available in Lima now that Food and Drug Administration has approved Mercy Health-St. Rita’s request to join the nationwide study, led by the Mayo Clinic.
While there is no known cure for COVID-19, researchers are trying to determine whether convalescent plasma is an option.
Convalescent plasma — the liquid part of blood collected from those who have recovered from an illness — has been used to treat other infectious diseases like polio, measles, influenza and Ebola. But scientists are still learning how effective the treatment is for COVID-19, particularly for those patients who are most likely to experience severe respiratory distress.
The plasma is drawn from COVID-19 survivors who have both tested positive for and recovered from the virus, which generally occurs 14-28 days after a person is no longer showing symptoms.
“Those antibodies will hang around in the blood for quite a long time,” said Dr. Matt Owens, chief clinical officer for Mercy Health-St. Rita’s. “What we’re trying to do is capture those antibodies from a patient who has recovered from COVID-19 and be able to put those antibodies into the blood plasma of a patient who is currently fighting off COVID-19.”
Owens said the hospital’s participation in the study will help determine whether convalescent plasma is a reasonable treatment option for those with severe disease.
St. Rita’s is one of several Bon Secours-Mercy Health hospitals participating in the study.
But because COVID-19 tests are still often reserved for patients who are already hospitalized, and donors must be symptom free for several weeks to show they are fully recovered, the supply of convalescent plasma is still limited.
The American Red Cross, which is helping supply hospitals like St. Rita’s with convalescent plasma, is exploring whether it can administer its own antibody tests to expand the potential donor pool. But for now, the Red Cross is looking for donors who have already been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Prospective donors are being directed to the Red Cross’s website, where they can register to determine eligibility and access the appropriate blood donation center.
Mackenzi Klemann is a reporter at The Lima News. Reach her at 567-242-0456.