Plasma transfusions hold promise in fight against COVID-19 (Photo: Advocate Aurora Health)
The University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and UC Health plan to test out a possible COVID-19 treatment on patients.
The therapy, known as convalescent plasma, has had positive effects in initial cases, according to Dr. Moises Huaman, a UC Health physician and leader overseeing local protocol of the new treatment. Plasma is the liquid that makes up the largest part of human blood, roughly 55% of its content.
Huaman said in a statement that though more research is needed, the therapy is worth exploring, especially for the sickest COVID-19 patients, as no other approved treatment is currently available for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
No specific antiviral drugs are available against COVID-19 nor is there a vaccine, so effective treatments are needed to reduce sickness and death.
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UC and UC Health are among hundreds of universities and academic health systems in the U.S. that have sought to implement the therapy as part of a national collaboration. Their efforts will be studied to determine the treatment’s safety and efficacy.
The Mayo Clinic is serving as the lead institution for the program.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration began allowing researchers to request emergency authorization for the use of convalescent plasma on March 24.
People who recover from COVID-19 do so, at least in part, because their blood contains antibodies capable of fighting the novel coronavirus, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Patients with COVID-19 may improve faster if they receive a plasma transfusion from those who have recovered from the disease because the plasma may be able to fight the virus, according to UC Health.
This program may allow access to that plasma for hospitalized patients who have severe or life-threatening COVID-19, or who may be at high risk of developing a severe case.
Once they have registered and given informed consent, UC Health patients may receive one unit of convalescent plasma.
“The length of this project will depend on other parallel clinical trials that are looking at whether this strategy or other strategies are effective or not,” Huaman said. “As we gain more knowledge of what actually works, we will be able to determine the long-term usefulness of convalescent plasma.”
UC and UC Health have also joined dozens of other institutions to investigate the use of convalescent plasma in a separate program.
Convalescent plasma, which dates to the 1890s, has been used to prevent or treat several diseases, including measles, SARS, Ebola, H1N1 flu and polio.
“With the research and clinical expertise present at our academic health system, we are working to find and expedite treatments for this virus and improve lives of those who are affected in our community and beyond,” said Dr. Brett Kissela, chief of research services for UC Health.
Hoxworth Blood Center is seeking convalescent plasma donors who have recovered from a documented COVID-19 case and been symptom-free for 28 days. The center is also seeking those who think they had COVID-19.
Possible donors can fill out an eligibility form on UC’s website.
Hoxworth, which is part of UC, is also running a separate study on convalescent plasma with Christ Hospital that was announced last week.
If you are a physician, hospital representative or patient seeking more information, email HoxCovid19@uc.edu.
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