Local hospitals are taking part in a nationwide study to try and find a better treatment for patients battling COVID-19.
“The goal of the study is to provide convalescent plasma to patients that are ill in the hospital with the hopes that they will recover faster,” said Dr. Dayani Nualles-Percy, the study’s lead investigator at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, O’Connor Hospital and St. Louise Regional Hospital.
“People who have recovered from being recently infected with COVID-19, they can donate plasma. That plasma can be given to patients that are still in the hospital,” said Dr. Nualles-Percy. “The goal is to help eliminate the infection for those patients that are in the hospital a little bit faster than if they had to wait to build up their own antibodies.”
Dr. Nualles-Percy says convalescent plasma has been used in the past to battle infections like polio, influenza, Ebola and older coronavirus infections like SARS and MERS and it was effective.
The South Bay hospitals began participating in the study on April 19. It is being conducted by the Mayo Clinic and is funded by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dr. Nualles-Percy says so far, the patients at her hospital that have needed plasma have all been able to get it, but the supply of plasma is limited.
“One of the barriers that we’re facing is that is this is a very new infection. There’s not a lot of people that have already developed antibodies and have been able to donate plasma,” said Dr. Nualles-Percy. “Not everyone that gets enrolled in the study is able to get a unit of plasma, because there might not be enough or whatever is available at the blood bank is not compatible with the patient.”
The study’s website, www.uscovidplasma.org, reports that as of May 15 there are more than 2,200 hospitals across the United States participating in the plasma study. Almost 16,500 patients have enrolled and over 11,000 have been infused. Dr. Nualles-Percy is hopeful that the Mayo Clinic will be able to review the data soon and issue an update on if the treatments are beneficial.
“I think, as health care providers, we’re really excited and waiting for results because we don’t have any other treatment options right now. So, this will be great,” said Dr. Nualles-Percy.
While the treatment will not help create a vaccine for COVID-19, it will hopefully help patients recover more quickly if they catch COVID-19.
“Right now, because we don’t have a vaccine; we don’t have any treatment available, this is the best we have based on prior research on older infectious diseases,” said Dr. Nualles-Percy. “Ideally, one day, we’ll have more of a definite term in medication or a vaccine to help prevent COVID-19.”
The Red Cross says to donate plasma you must be over 18 years of age, be in good health and have a prior, verified diagnosis of COVID-19 but are now symptom free. You can donate your plasma at any blood bank.
“If people could donate plasma that will be fantastic because in order to provide plasma to patients, we need to have a supply,” said Dr. Nualles-Percy. “That’s something that we don’t have as much just because of the nature of being a new infection. Not many people have recovered from it yet.”