A Colorado hospital was one of the first in the nation to facilitate an experimental treatment that could help save patients who are critically ill from the novel coronavirus.
Children’s Hospital Colorado last week accepted its first donation of convalescent plasma — a part of blood — from a person who had fully recovered after contracting COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.
The plasma from a recently recovered COVID-19 patient might carry unique antibodies that helped the patient fight off the infection, said Kyle Annen, a doctor who is in charge of the blood donation center at Children’s Hospital. If the recovered patient donates his or her plasma, the plasma can be given to a still-sick COVID-19 patient to hopefully help the sick patient fight the infection and recover, she said.
“When we take these antibodies from a healthy recovered donor and transfuse them into the patient, those antibodies are essentially little targeted missiles and they go in and attack the virus and they will either clear the virus or prevent the virus from replicating,” Annen said. “It reduces the amount of virus in the patient.”
Such transfusions can give the sick patient a reprieve until their own body can fight off the infection, she said. Children’s Hospital accepted its first plasma donation from a recovered COVID-19 patient on March 31 and has taken donations from about 10 recovered people since then, she said.
The treatment is experimental and is only allowed under limited circumstances with patient-by-patient approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The plasma donations collected at Children’s Hospital in Aurora were directed to current COVID-19 patients, Annen said. At least one request for plasma came from the University of Colorado, she said, though she declined to discuss whether patients improved after the transfusions.
Although the hospital was among the first to collect plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients, many other organizations, including blood donation centers and the American Red Cross, are also beginning to take such donations.
The Red Cross collected its first such plasma donation from a person in New Jersey last week, a spokeswoman said Monday, and is working to both increase donation collection and figure out how to best distribute the collected plasma across the country within the strict FDA rules.
Annen said Children’s Hospital’s blood center is relatively small and independent, which allowed it to quickly adjust its procedures to collect plasma from former COVID-19 patients soon after the FDA gave the green light. Any former COVID-19 patient who has fully recovered may be eligible to donate plasma, she said, as long as the patient meets several conditions, including having previously tested positive for the novel coronavirus and being symptom-free for at least 14 days.
Those interested in donation can contact the center at 720-777-3557 or by email at [email protected] for more information. Potential donors can also reach out to their local blood donation center for additional information.
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