Nash UNC Health Care uses cutting-edge COVID-19 treatment

The Enterprise

Staff members at Nash UNC Health Care, like these nurses shown providing instructions to a patient, are wearing personal protective equipment including face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Patients and visitors will be required to wear face masks inside the hospital.

Contributed photo

For The Enterprise

ROCKY MOUNT — Nash UNC Health Care is using convalescent plasma to treat qualifying COVID-19 patients through its participation in the national Expanded Access Program, in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic. 

Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved this form of treatment for individual patients who are critically ill with COVID-19. 

“Convalescent plasma therapy is made possible by first removing plasma — the liquid portion of the blood — from the donated blood of a person who has recovered from a disease, in this case, COVID-19,” explained Dr. Michael Roth, incoming medical director of the laboratory at Nash UNC. “When your body is exposed to a foreign bacteria or virus, your immune system produces proteins called antibodies, which can eliminate the virus from the body.”

“Almost like taking vitamins to supplement your diet, plasma therapy is used to supplement the patient’s immune system by providing additional antibodies to fight the virus while the patient’s body naturally builds its own army of antibodies,” Roth said. 

Dr. Priyank Desai, the intensivist responsible for the Critical Care Unit at Nash UNC, explains that while the use of convalescent plasma to treat patients against viruses is not new, it has not been commonly utilized in hospitals prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. This type of therapy has been used in the past as an investigational treatment with past outbreaks like SARS, Ebola, H1N1 and others, and is currently growing in practice as a treatment to try for COVID-19 patients who are not responding to other treatments or who have a higher risk of serious illness.   

Desai said plasma therapy may not work for all patients.

“In past studies, the use of convalescent plasma has been noted to help some, but not all patients in their recovery. While it is not known for certain that this will or will not help COVID-19 patients, we do believe this plasma therapy can make an impact and lessen the severity of the illness for patients who are hospitalized,” Desai said. 

In late April, Nash UNC Health Care began using convalescent plasma therapy on patients who met the criteria for this type of treatment. 

“It’s exciting that Nash UNC is participating in the use of this treatment,” said Lee Isley, president and CEO of Nash UNC Health Care. “We are providing our community with access to the latest innovations in COVID treatment, and providing helpful data to this national study which could lead to new treatments and practices in medicine.”

Those who have recovered from COVID-19 will have the opportunity to help other COVID patients by donating their plasma with The Blood Connection.

The process of plasma donation is largely similar to donating blood. To be eligible to donate, one must be fully recovered from the virus and asymptomatic for at least 28 days. Up to four people can benefit from one plasma donation.

If you have recovered from COVID-19 and are interested in donating convalescent plasma, contact The Blood Connection by calling 864-751-1168. 

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