BY EMILY KULKUS
Upstate Medical University is seeking patients who have recovered from COVID-19 for an emergency clinical trial. The recovered patients would donate plasma, the liquid part of their blood, to help treat severely ill patients battling the disease.
The project is part of the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, which the Food and Drug Administration has approved as an emergency investigational new drug (EIND). The theory is that people who have recovered from COVID-19 have developed antibodies against the disease.
Those antibodies could then be given to a currently infected person to lessen the symptoms and speed recovery, says Timothy Endy, MD, professor and chair of microbiology and immunology at Upstate, and Stephen Thomas, MD, chief of infectious disease and leader of COVID-19 preparations at Upstate University Hospital.
The pool of potential local volunteers for the project should grow as those diagnosed continue to recover, Endy says. More than 100 people called in the first day the project began.
Plasma donation is safe for patients because they get to keep all of their “good cells,” Endy says, and anecdotally, doctors are seeing only positive results from patients who are treated with convalescent plasma.
“The scientific premise is sound that antibodies can reduce symptoms and hopefully the severity of COVID-19,” he says. “The unknown with this type of product is currently we don’t know how much antibody we’re actually getting from recovered patients. That’s a question that needsto be answered, and we’re hoping to do that.”
Upstate’s participation in the treatment trial was sparked during a teleconference among doctors from Upstate and in Wuhan, China. Doctors in Wuhan said they saw improvements in the severity of COVID-19 symptoms in patients that received convalescent plasma.
“If we can stop the progression of the disease from having to have someone go onto a ventilator by giving convalescent plasma, that would have a huge impact,” Endy says. “If we could reduce people’s hospital days by three days, that would be a huge impact, too.”
Thomas says Upstate intends to be the regional resource for the project for any severely ill COVID-19 patients. He stresses that the donation and the transfusion of plasma is safe for the donor and the patient. Upstate is working with the American Red Cross to do the plasma collection.
How to volunteer
If you are 18 years or older, have tested positive for COVID-19 and are now 14 days out from your last symptom, call Upstate Clinical Trials at 315-464-9869 to arrange a screening appointment.