COVID-19 recovery patients could hold the key to beating the disease

Friday, April 10, 2020
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

As doctors continue to fight the coronavirus, many of them are finding success with treating through plasma. (Source: WRDW)

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- Well if you've had COVID-19 and recovered, your body has essentially created an immunity and its own vaccine in a way.

RELATED | Coronavirus coverage on WRDW.com

So the plan here is to take a recovered patient's plasma -- and give it to those extremely sick in the ICU with the hope that it makes the difference between life and death.

"You can just imagine if that's somebody you know that's sick in the hospital, that is super sick, there isn't any medication,” Melinda Wodell, the director of Apheresis at the Shepeard Blood Center, said.

The center, according to Wodell, is where they’ve started the process of convalescent blood transfusion.

“The patients have antibodies in their plasma,” Wodell said. “The antibodies, we’re hoping, once given to sick patients, is going to bridge and help them fight the battle on their own front."

Dr. Jose Vazquez, an infectious disease expert at Augusta University Health, says the therapy has been used to fight diseases for more than 100 years.

"Plasma could be a cure,” Vazquez said. “It could cure and get you out of the hospital."

While it's still too early to tell how well it works with a wide range of patients, research is promising.

In a study published in the Journal of American Medicine, five critically ill patients with severe pneumonia on respirators were treated with the therapy. Within days, all five improved, and three were released from the hospital after just 2 weeks.

"Your pint of blood may be able to save four individuals that are now in the hospital, sick, in the intensive care unit and get them out of the ICU and get them home to their family,” Vazquez said.

Dr. Roni Bollag, a transfusion medicine physician at MCG, says plasma is a bridge -- not a cure.

"Every therapeutic has its risks,” Bollag said. “There may be unforeseen consequences to this too.”

But they hope giving plasma gives patients extra days and a fighting chance.

The process takes about an hour, and it's actually a smaller needle than when you give blood. Plasma lasts a year, and you can donate again. In fact, you can donate every 7 days.

To donate, you must have a positive test result for COVID-19. Even if you thought you had it, you can't donate if you don't have that test result. You must be healthy and fully recovered for at least 14 days and must test negative again.

If you are symptom-free after 28 days, a negative test is not required.

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