Plasma therapy is one of the few treatments approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the coronavirus, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be effective for you or your loved one. Dr. David Battinelli, senior VP and chief medical officer of Northwell Health, whose hospital is using plasma therapy to treat patients with COVID-19, said the 100-year-old regimen has a checkered past.
"One of our concerns is that most of the patients who received plasma now simply receive plasma that has some level of antibody in it, but we don't know if it's a neutralizing antibody," Dr. Battinelli told Fox News.
In other words, when they take the plasma from a donor, they don’t know how many antibodies are in that plasma, nor do they know the amount needed to kill the virus in your body.
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This is why Battinelli says there needs to be a controlled test to see how effective the treatment actually is, but unfortunately, that isn’t possible right now.
"There's really not enough [plasma] for everybody to go around. So if there isn't enough to go around, it's very likely that somebody is not going to be able to do a controlled trial," he explained.
The way plasma therapy works is simple. A donor who was infected with the virus donates some plasma from their blood which contains antibodies; that plasma then gets infused into a patient who has the virus with the hopes that the amount of antibodies is enough to kill the virus in the ill patient.
Although there is very little risk to the donor when they give the plasma, Battinelli says there is some level of risk for the receiver of the plasma.
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"The risk to the person who receives it is the sum of these things could be infective [or] there could be an unknown illness carried in the plasma," he warned. "The risk is not huge, but the benefit also doesn't appear to be there."
Battinelli reiterated that even though the therapy could be an effective way to treat COVID-19, it’s not a long-term treatment plan.
"[Plasma therapy] has been something to bridge the time between effective therapy, whether it be an anti-viral agent or a particular antibiotic or something else, and a vaccine. So this is not in any way, shape, or form going to be a long-term therapy."