FirstHealth of the Carolinas has joined the convalescent plasma expanded access program at Mayo Clinic to provide plasma transfusion treatment for hospitalized patients with severe or life-threatening COVID-19.
Patients who have recovered from COVID-19 are encouraged to donate convalescent plasma through OneBlood. The plasma, also called serum, is then processed and tested for antibodies that help fight against the virus.
“A very old treatment is taking part of the blood of someone who recovered from a disease, someone who has the necessary antibodies to fight it, and giving it to a person with the disease,” said Gretchen Shaughnessy Arnoczy, M.D., an infectious diseases physician with FirstHealth of the Carolinas. “Convalescent plasma is a promising treatment because it’s worked for other diseases.”
To be eligible for donation, individuals must have recovered from coronavirus, become completely free of symptoms for 14 days, and test negative for the virus. Once all criteria are met, recovered patients can register to donate at OneBlood.org.
FirstHealth has performed its first successful plasma transfusion, and Dr. Arnoczy said more will occur as long as availability allows. The Mayo Clinic program includes protocols and regulatory assistance, but does not supply the plasma. Sites are encouraged to establish local channels and work with blood banks to identify and recruit donors.
“We want to have a more robust pipeline of plasma available to us,” she said. “We really want to encourage people who have recovered from COVID to go on the OneBlood website and register. That will help us have more supply, so we can use it in more patients.”
After donation, plasma, the liquid portion of the blood, is separated and tested. On average, processing takes about 24 hours. Building a steady supply of convalescent plasma will help eliminate wait times and make transfusions quickly available to those in need.
A recent report from JAMA illustrated the potential benefits of convalescent plasma treatment in an uncontrolled case series. Five critically ill patients with COVID-19 were given convalescent plasma, which was followed by an improvement in clinical status. Although improved patient outcome was associated with the plasma treatment, no definitive conclusions could be drawn.
“We’re really excited about this treatment, and think it could really help people,” Dr. Arnoczy said. “Having recovered patients participate in serum donation is a great aid.”
She said OneBlood has worked to make the process as convenient as possible during this challenging time. After individuals register online, OneBlood will directly contact them to discuss their eligibility and walk them through the next steps to donate.
Visit www.oneblood.org to find out more.