Doctors optimistic in coronavirus plasma transfusion therapy

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Physicians seeking relief for their COVID-19 patients are turning to convalescent plasma transfusions using antibodies from recovered coronavirus cases.

AdventHealth in Orlando, Fla., has partnered with OneBlood for a plasma donation program spearheaded by Dr. Juliana Gaitan. Plasma from recovered COVID-19 cases is transfused to critically ill COVID-19 patients, with the hope that the antibodies will help the patient fight or neutralize the disease.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is facilitating access to the COVID-19 convalescent plasma for use in patients with serious or immediately life-threatening infections, according to an AdventHealth press release.

Gaitan said the hospital is among the first in the nation to begin offering this therapy.

Dr. Eduardo Oliveira, critical care specialist and pulmonologist at AdventHealth, said the approach has had “some degree of success” in COVID-19 patients in China.

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Oliveira said the team received authorization to move forward with the approach early last week. So far, five AdventHealth patients have received plasma donations, most of which came from family members.

“We are optimistic about it, a couple of our patients are doing slightly better,” Oliveira told Fox News. “We can’t tell for sure if it’s the plasma that’s working but it’s encouraging that none of them are doing worse or are behaving in a different way with other complications that could have come from the plasma used like allergic reactions.”

Plasma donations are coming in through a slow-trickle, likely due to unawareness surrounding the program, Oliveira said.

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Blood plasma donations require a longer but similar process to giving blood. Oliveira said prospective plasma donors will need to have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past, and bloodwork will be checked. To donate plasma, recovered patients must be at least 15 days free from experiencing symptoms.

“If [recovered COVID-19 patients] find it in their hearts to donate it would be, not only potentially very good for our patients if this panned out to be true and effective, but also would be good for science and advancing our understanding on how we treat better COVID-19 patients and how we help folks not only now but in the future," Oliveira said.

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Those interested in donating can find more information here.

“We are really depending on the community for support,” Gaitan said. “As the number of COVID-19 cases increases, we expect high demand for this potentially life-saving treatment.”